Friday, July 22, 2016

Elena Ferrante My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels #1)
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Translated by Ann Goldstein from Italian into English.

Elena Ferrante is likely appear frequently on my blog.  I am so bowled over by this book that I am going to stalk her and read everything she writes.  This book has long been gracing several lists of books that MUST be read.  I caved in when a couple of friends recommended it highly on twitter. 

In this book Elena Ferrante takes us back to the 1950s when her protagonist - Elena Greco - was a little girl growing up in a poor suburb of Naples.  Elena (Lenu) makes friends with a thin, fierce little girl called Lila.

We are given a deep and incisive look into the world of little children and how they cope with pressures of growing up in a neighbourhood that is full of poverty and squalor, tattered lives held together by a fraying string.

There was something unbearable in the things, in the people, in the buildings, in the streets that, only if you reinvented it all, as in a game, became acceptable.  The essential, however was to know how to play, and she and I, only she and I, knew how to do it.

There were countless number of times while reading the book that I was transported back to my own childhood.  I felt all the insecurities and anxieties that I felt in those years all over again. 

Children live in a world that can be completely detached from their parents at time.  The parents come alive only when the children return home to them in the evening.

The relationship between Lenu and Lila is not the usual girlish sorts that we see in most young adult books. They are not inseparable besties giggling through puberty and boys. Their relationship is like a see-saw.  They are sometimes jealous of each other, sometimes, fiercely loyal, sometimes distant, but never indifferent to each other.

This is the first of the four part series of The Neapolitan Novels. We get a look not just at the lives of Lenu and Lila, but the entire community of people who live in the suburb, tied by a common thread of poverty.  Yet among them live young people who promise to bring a better way of life for them all.
You are my brilliant friend, you have to be the best of all, boys and girls.
These are the lines that Lila says to Lenu, willing her to achieve everything that she cannot, showing the Lena that she is not merely a friend or a sister, but an extension of herself, Lila.  Lila and Lenu, each looks upon the other as a 'brilliant friend'.


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