My Brilliant Friend (Neapolitan Novels Series #1)

My Brilliant Friend (Neapolitan Novels Series #1)

3.5 36
by Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.

Overview

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

Ferrante is the author of three previous works of critically acclaimed fiction: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. With this novel, the first in a tetralogy, she proves herself to be one of Italy’s great storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations, that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new readers to her fiction.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The world of Elena and Lila, Neapolitan girls growing up after the Second World War, is small, casually violent, and confined to their poor neighborhood where everyone knows everyone and the few prosperous families dominate. There are rules and expectations, and everyone knows and lives by them. Except Lila: smarter and bolder than the others, she does what she wants, drawing Elena, who narrates the story, in her wake. But this is more than a conventional up-from-poverty tale. Elena completes her schooling; Lila does not. Elena leaves the neighborhood and eventually Naples and Southern Italy; Lila does not. Yet it is Lila and her dreams and caprices that drive everything. In fact, the narrative exists because the adult Elena, hearing that Lila has disappeared, decides to write Lila’s story. And she does, in dense, almost sociological detail (the list of the members of the key families is actually necessary). This is both fascinating—two girls, their families, a neighborhood, and a nation emerging from war and into an economic boom—and occasionally tedious, as day-to-day life can be. But Lila, mercurial, unsparing, and, at the end of this first episode in a planned trilogy from Ferrante (The Lost Daughter), seemingly capable of starting a full-scale neighborhood war, is a memorable character. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Elena Ferrante and The Neapolitan Novels

The United States

“Ferrante’s novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader.” —James WoodThe New Yorker
 
“One of the more nuanced portraits of feminine friendship in recent memory.” —Megan O’Grady, Vogue
 
“Amazing! My Brilliant Friend took my breath away. If I were president of the world I would make everyone read this book. It is so honest and right and opens up heart to so much. Reading Ferrante reminded me of that child-like excitement when you can’t look up from the page, when your eyes seem to be popping from your head, when you think: I didn’t know books could do this!” —Elizabeth Strout, author of Olive Kitteridge
 
“I like the Italian writer, Elena Ferrante, a lot. I've been reading all her work and all about her.” — John Watersactor and director
 
“Elena Ferrante may be the best contemporary novelist you’ve never heard of”— The Economist
 
“Ferrante’s freshness has nothing to do with fashion…it is imbued with the most haunting music of all, the echoes of literary history.” The New York Times Book Review
 
“I am such a fan of Ferrante’s work, and have been for quite a while.” —Jennifer Gilmoreauthor of The Mothers
 
“The women’s fraught relationship and shifting fortunes are the life forces of the poignant book” — Publisher’s Weekly
 
“When I read [the Neapolitan novels] I find that I never want to stop. I feel vexed by the obstacles—my job, or acquaintances on the subway—that threaten to keep me apart from the books. I mourn separations (a year until the next one—how?). I am propelled by a ravenous will to keep going.”Molly FischerThe New Yorker

“[Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels] don’t merely offer a teeming vision of working-class Naples, with its cobblers and professors, communists and mobbed-up businessmen, womanizing poets and downtrodden wives; they present one of modern fiction’s richest portraits of a friendship.” —John Powers, Fresh Air, NPR
 

“Elena Ferrante is one of the great novelists of our time. Her voice is passionate, her view sweeping and her gaze basilisk . . . In these bold, gorgeous, relentless novels, Ferrante traces the deep connections between the political and the domestic. This is a new version of the way we live now — one we need, one told brilliantly, by a woman.”Roxana Robinson, The New York Times Book Review
 

“An intoxicatingly furious portrait of enmeshed friends Lila and Elena, Bright and passionate girls from a raucous neighborhood in world-class Naples. Ferrante writes with such aggression  and unnerving psychological insight about the messy complexity of female friendship that the real world can drop away when you’re reading her.”Entertainment Weekly

"It's just hypnotic. I could not stop reading it or thinking about it."—Hillary Clinton
 

“Ferrante seasons the prose with provocative perceptions not unlike the way Proust did.” —Shelf Awareness
 

“It would be difficult to find a deeper portrait of women’s friendship than the one in Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, which unfold from the fifties to the twenty-first century to tell a single story with the possessive force of an origin myth.”Megan O’GradyVogue 
 

“Ferrante’s writing is so unencumbered, so natural, and yet so lovely, brazen, and flush. The constancy of detail and the pacing that zips and skips then slows to a real-time crawl have an almost psychic effect, bringing you deeply into synchronicity with the discomforts and urgency of the characters’ emotions. Ferrante is unlike other writers—not because she’s innovative, but rather because she’s unselfconscious and brutally, diligently honest.”Minna ProctorBookforum
 

“Ferrante can do a woman’s interior dialogue like no one else, with a ferocity that is shockingly honest, unnervingly blunt.”Booklist
 

“The truest evocation of a complex and lifelong friendship between women I’ve ever read.” —Emily Gould, author of Friendship
 

“Elena Ferrante is the author of several remarkable, lucid, austerely honest novels . . . My Brilliant Friend is a large, captivating, amiably peopled bildungsroman.”James WoodThe New Yorker
 

“Compelling, visceral and immediate . . . a riveting examination of power . . . The Neapolitan novels are a tour de force.”Jennifer GilmoreThe Los Angeles Times
 

“Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay surpasses the rapturous storytelling of the previous titles in the Neapolitan Novels.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 

“Ferrante’s voice feels necessary. She is the Italian Alice Munro.”Mona Simpson,author of Casebook and Anywhere But Here
 

“Elena Ferrante will blow you away.”Alice Seboldauthor of The Lovely Bones
 

“The Days of Abandonment is a powerful, heartrending novel.”Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Lowland 
 

“The Neapolitan novel cycle is an unconditional masterpiece . . . I read all the books in a state of immersion; I was totally enthralled. There was nothing else I wanted to do except follow the lives of Lila and Lenù to the end.”Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Lowland
 

“Reading Ferrante reminded me of that child-like excitement when you can’t look up from the page, when your eyes seem to be popping from your head, when you think: I didn’t know books could do this!”Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Burgess Boys
 

“Elena Ferrante: the best angry woman writer ever!”John Waters, director
 
“The feverish speculation about the identity of Elena Ferrante betrays an understandable failure of imagination: it seems impossible that right now somewhere someone sits in a room and draws up these books. Palatial and heartbreaking beyond measure, the Neapolitan novels seem less written than they do revealed. One simply surrenders. When the final volume appears—may that day never come!—they’re bound to be acknowledged as one of the most powerful works of art, in any medium, of our age.”Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction
 

“Ferrante tackles girlhood and friendship with amazing force.”Gwyneth Paltrow, actor
 
“Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a New Name. Book two in her Naples trilogy. Two words: Read it.”Ann Hood, writer (from Twitter)
 
“Ferrante continues to imbue this growing saga with great magic.”Booklist(starred review)
 

“One of Italy’s best contemporary novelists.”?The Seattle Times

“Ferrante’s emotional and carnal candor are so potent.”Janet MaslinThe New York Times
 

“Elena Ferrante’s gutsy and compulsively readable new novel, the first of a quartet, is a terrific entry point for Americans unfamiliar with the famously reclusive writer, whose go-for-broke tales of women’s shadow selves—those ambivalent mothers and seething divorcées too complex or unseemly for polite society (and most literary fiction, for that matter)—shimmer with Balzacian human detail and subtle psychological suspense . . . The Neapolitan novels offer one of the more nuanced portraits of feminine friendship in recent memory—from the make-up and break-up quarrels of young girls to the way in which we carefully define ourselves against each other as teens—Ferrante wisely balances her memoir-like emotional authenticity with a wry sociological understanding of a society on the verge of dramatic change.” —Megan O’GradyVogue
 

“My Brilliant Friend is a sweeping family-centered epic that encompasses issues of loyalty, love, and a transforming Europe. This gorgeous novel should bring a host of new readers to one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors.”—The Barnes and Noble Review
 

“Ferrante draws an indelible picture of the city’s mean streets and the poverty, violence and sameness of lives lived in the same place forever . . . She is a fierce writer.”Shelf Awareness
 

“Ferrante transforms the love, separation and reunion of two poor urban girls into the general tragedy of their city.”––The New York Times
 

“Beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein . . . Ferrante writes with a ferocious, intimate urgency that is a celebration of anger. Ferrante is terribly good with anger, a very specific sort of wrath harbored by women, who are so often not allowed to give voice to it. We are angry, a lot of the time, at the position we’re in—whether it’s as wife, daughter, mother, friend—and I can think of no other woman writing who is so swift and gorgeous in this rage, so bracingly fearless in mining fury.”Susanna Sonnenberg, The San Francisco Chronicle
 

“Everyone should read anything with Ferrante’s name on it.”The Boston Globe
 

“The through-line in all of Ferrante’s investigations, for me, is nothing less than one long, mind-and-heart-shredding howl for the history of women (not only Neapolitan women), and its implicit j’accuse . . . Ferrante’s effect, critics agree, is inarguable. ‘Intensely, violently personal’ and ‘brutal directness, familial torment’ is how James Wood ventures to categorize her—descriptions that seem mild after you’ve encountered the work.” —Joan FrankThe San Francisco Chronicle
 

“Lila, mercurial, unsparing, and, at the end of this first episode in a planned trilogy from Ferrante, seemingly capable of starting a full-scale neighborhood war, is a memorable character.”Publishers Weekly
 

“An engrossing, wildly original contemporary epic about the demonic power of human (and particularly female) creativity checked by the forces of history and society.” —The Los Angeles Review of Books
 

“Ferrante’s own writing has no limits, is willing to take every thought forward to its most radical conclusion and backwards to its most radical birthing.”­—The New Yorker

The United Kingdom

“The Story of a New Name, like its predecessor, is fiction of the very highest order.”Independent on Sunday
 

“My Brilliant Friend, translated by Ann Goldstein, is stunning: an intense, forensic exploration of the friendship between Lila and the story’s narrator, Elena. Ferrante’s evocation of the working-class district of Naples where Elena and Lila first meet as two wiry eight-year-olds is cinematic in the density of its detail.”The Times Literary Supplement
 

“This is a story about friendship as a mass of roiling currents—love, envy, pity, spite, dependency and Schadenfreude coiling around one another, tricky to untangle.”Intelligent Life
 

“Elena Ferrante may be the best contemporary novelist you have never heard of. The Italian author has written six lavishly praised novels. But she writes under a pseudonym and will not offer herself for public consumption. Her characters likewise defy convention . . . Her prose is crystal, and her storytelling both visceral and compelling.”The Economist
 

Ferrante is an expert above all at the rhythm of plotting: certain feuds and oppositions are kept simmering and in abeyance for years, so that a particular confrontation – a particular scene – can be many hundreds of pages in coming, but when it arrives seems at once shocking and inevitable.”The Independent

Italy
 

“Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay evokes the vital flux of a heartbeat, of blood flowing through our veins.”––La Repubblica
 

“We don’t know who she is, but it doesn’t matter. Ferrante’s books are enthralling self-contained monoliths that do not seek friendship but demand silent, fervid admiration from her passionate readers . . . The thing most real in these novels is the intense, almost osmotic relationship that unites Elena and Lila, the two girls from a neighborhood in Naples who are the peerless protagonists of the Neapolitan novels.”Famiglia Cristiana
 

“Today it is near impossible to find writers capable of bringing smells, tastes, feelings, and contradictory passions to their pages. Elena Ferrante, alone, seems able to do it. There is no writer better suited to composing the great Italian novel of her generation, her country, and her time than she.”Il Manifesto
 

“Elena Ferrante is a very great novelist . . . In a world often held prisoner to minimalism, her writing is extremely powerful, earthy, and audacious.”Francesca Marciano, author of The Other Language
 

“Regardless of who is behind the name Elena Ferrante, the mysterious pseudonym used by the author of the Neapolitan novels, two things are certain: she is a woman and she knows how to describe Naples like nobody else. She does so with a style that recalls an enchanted spider web with its expressive power and the wizardry with which it creates an entire world.” —Huffington Post (Italy)
 

“A marvel that is without limits and beyond genre.”Il Salvagente

“Elena Ferrante is proving that literature can cure our present ills; it can cure the spirit by operating as an antidote to the nervous attempts we make to see ourselves reflected in the present-day of a country that is increasingly repellent.”Il Mattino

“My Brilliant Friend flows from the soul like an eruption from Mount Vesuvio.”La Repubblica

Australia
 

“No one has a voice quite like Ferrante’s. Her gritty, ruthlessly frank novels roar off the page with a barbed fury, like an attack that is also a defense . . . Ferrante’s fictions are fierce, unsentimental glimpses at the way a woman is constantly under threat, her identity submerged in marriage, eclipsed by motherhood, mythologised by desire. Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are.”John FreemanThe Australian
 

“One of the most astounding—and mysterious—contemporary Italian novelists available in translation, Elena Ferrante unfolds the tumultuous inner lives of women in her thrillingly menacing stories of lost love, negligent mothers and unfulfilled desires.”The Age
 

“Ferrante bewitches with her tiny, intricately drawn world . . . My Brilliant Friend journeys fearlessly into some of that murkier psychological territory where questions of individual identity are inextricable from circumstance and the ever-changing identities of others.” —The Melbourne Review
 

“The Neapolitan novels move far from contrivance, logic or respectability to ask uncomfortable questions about how we live, how we love, how we singe an existence in a deeply flawed world that expects pretty acquiescence from its women. In all their beauty, their ugliness, their devotion and deceit, these girls enchant and repulse, like life, like our very selves.” —The Sydney Morning Herald
 

“The best thing I’ve read this year, far and away, would be Elena Ferrante…I just think she puts most other writing at the moment in the shade. She’s marvelous. I like her so much I’m now doing something I only do when I really love the writer: I’m only allowing myself two pages a day.” —Richard Flanagan, author of Book prize finalist, The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Spain
 

“Elena Ferrante’s female characters are genuine works of art . . . It is clear that her novel is the child of Italian neorealism and an abiding fascination with scene.”El Pais

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781609450786
Publisher:
Europa
Publication date:
09/25/2012
Series:
Neapolitan Novels Series , #1
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
407
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

Praise for Elena Ferrante and The Neapolitan Novels

“Everyone should read anything with Ferrante’s name on it.” —The Boston Globe
 
“Ferrante’s novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader.” —James Wood, The New Yorker
 
“One of the more nuanced portraits of feminine friendship in recent memory.” —Megan O’Grady, Vogue
 
“Amazing! My Brilliant Friend took my breath away. If I were president of the world I would make everyone read this book. It is so honest and right and opens up heart to so much. Reading Ferrante reminded me of that child-like excitement when you can’t look up from the page, when your eyes seem to be popping from your head, when you think: I didn’t know books could do this!” —Elizabeth Strout, author of Olive Kitteridge
 
“Elena Ferrante will blow you away.” —Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones
 
 
“Ferrante’s emotional and carnal candor are so potent." —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
“I like the Italian writer, Elena Ferrante, a lot. I've been reading all her work and all about her.” — John Waters, actor and director
 
“"Elena Ferrante tackles girlhood and friendship with amazing force.”— Gwenyth Paltrow
 
“Elena Ferrante may be the best contemporary novelist you’ve never heard of”— The Economist
 
“[Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels] don’t merely offer a teeming vision of working-class Naples, with its cobblers and professors, communists and mobbed-up businessmen, womanizing poets and downtrodden wives; they present one of modern fiction’s richest portraits of a friendship.” —John Powers, Fresh Air, NPR
 
“Ferrante’s freshness has nothing to do with fashion…it is imbued with the most haunting music of all, the echoes of literary history.” The New York Times Book Review
 
“Elena Ferrante’s THE STORY OF A NEW NAME, book two in her Naples series. Two words. Read it.” —Ann Hood, author of The Obituary Writer
 
“Ferrante writes with a ferocious, intimate urgency.” —Susanna Sonnenberg, author of Her Last Death: A Memoir
 
The Days of Abandonment is a powerful, heartrending novel.” —Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Lowlands
 
“I am such a fan of Ferrante’s work, and have been for quite a while.” —Jennifer Gilmore, author of The Mothers
 
“No one has a voice quite like Ferrante's. Her gritty, ruthlessly frank novels roar off the page with a barbed fury, like an attack that is also a defense…Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you'll have some idea of how explosive these works are.” —John Freeman, The Australian
 
“The women’s fraught relationship and shifting fortunes are the life forces of the poignant book” — Publisher’s Weekly
 
"An engrossing, wildly original contemporary epic about the demonic power of human (and particularly female) creativity checked by the forces of history and society." The Los Angeles Review of Books
 
 

Meet the Author

Elena Ferrante was born in Naples, Italy. She is the author of My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, and her previous novels The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

My Brilliant Friend 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
KarmaNY More than 1 year ago
This is the author's fourth book, and it's about her childhood and coming of age growing up in Naples with her beloved friend, Lila, and the unspoken competition between them. I understand now why the author gave a synopsis of all the characters at the beginning of the book because there are so many, it can get confusing. But, as usual, Ms. Ferrante weaves a tale that is endearing, rich, and compelling. This is a women's book - I don't think a man could relate - and Elena Ferrante describes her experiences, observations and revelations with style and insight. She makes you feel as drawn to Lila as she and everyone else seems to be. She make you feel Lenu's insecurities. I wished the ending gave a little more detail about Lenu's future; but the fate of Lila tied in beautifully with the beginning of the book. I love Ferrante's unique writing style and am sad there are no other books left of hers to read (I read them all!).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written. A beautiful, complicated story. Its a shame the starred rating is misleading, for it seems several reviewers were confused about the system.
dakotadj More than 1 year ago
This book had me thinking all through it. It still has me thinking and wanting to know more. From what I read it  will be a trilogy. I was happy to discover that. These two girls are so entwined, yet going different directions. I want to know more about their futures.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book gives you great insights of what life was like for a girl in southern Italy after the war. Very well written .
books4gail More than 1 year ago
Oh, look at that list of characters at the beginning. Reminds me of Wolf Hall. And like Wolf Hall, this book is different: unusual style, lots of complicated interior lives of the characters and basics lives of a poor Neopolitan neighborhood in the 40s and 50s. Initially, I was unsure I would like it but reached a point where I was captivated by Lila, Lenu and their millieu. I am on to the next one. Oh, and full disclosure, my book group was "meh" about this one, though we had a spirited discussion about it! Methinks they liked it better once we discussed it.
BrynBB More than 1 year ago
Started reading this book and about 1/4 of the way through I thought, "Why am I still reading? This book is boring." So, sorry to the original author and sorry to the translator, but this book just wan't my cup of tea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story gives a vivid description of two girls growing up in post WWII Italy. The attitudes towards children and wives are archaic, and there are many instances of injuries inflicted on them. Following Lila and Elena through their lives is compelling, and will keep you reading. This is the first of three books (with a fourth coming later in 2015) and I intend to read them all. And my wish is that someone will make this story into a film.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I thought it was very well written,complicated and quite interesting.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Nuala More than 1 year ago
A continuous tale of teenage angst does not make for fun reading. Found it boring and kept waiting for a story to begin. Probably only resonates with those who grew up in Italy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A detailed, intense description of the fragility of two young girls desperately seeking their identity in a provincial, insecure small town. The author's clever use of symbols, such as new, fancy shoes that perhaps don't fit too well and that cost far too much, shoehorn a story that deftly describes the high cost of liberation and autonomy in a closed society. Eleanor Cowan, author of : A History of a Pedophile's Wife
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very boring book. Read till the 2nd part and just could not get into the complicated story. Seemed to be a real downer and depressing. Just not my cup of tea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have never read anything like this before. I am surprised at how little attention this book is getting. I could not put it down! Highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a book club choice -- all books were out at the Peninsula Library System. So decided to get My Brilliant Friend on the Nook. Really enjoyed it very much. Can't wait to read more of the series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As per usual from this gifted writer
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed in the book. The primary characters were boring, as was the book. There seemed to be episodes that the author wrote about, but no action or connection between them. I read it for my book club and although others liked it, I would not recommend it. There is very little for discussion. I realize that this is the firs of a trilogy (or so the author says) and i would not read the other books or anything else by her.