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My Brilliant Friend: A Novel (Neapolitan Novels, 1) (Neapolitan Quartet) Kindle Edition
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From one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, comes this ravishing and generous-hearted novel about a friendship that lasts a lifetime. The story of Elena and Lila begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood 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 their friendship, beautifully and meticulously rendered, becomes a not always perfect shelter from hardship. Ferrante has created a memorable portrait of two women, but My Brilliant Friend is also the story of a nation. Through the lives of Elena and Lila, Ferrante gives her readers the story of a city and a country undergoing momentous change.
“Nothing quite like it has ever been published.” - Guardian
“Elena Ferrante has established herself as the foremost writer in Italy - and the world.” - The Sunday Times
“This is high stakes, subversive literature.” - The Telegraph
About the Author
Elena Ferrante is the author of The Days of Abandonment (Europa, 2005), Troubling Love (Europa, 2006), The Lost Daughter (Europa, 2008) and the four volumes of the Neapolitan Quartet (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child), published by Europa Editions between 2012 and 2015. She is also the author of a children’s picture book illustrated by Mara Cerri, The Beach at Night, and a work of non-fiction, Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey.
Ann Goldstein is one of the most accomplished translators from the Italian working today. Best known for her translations of Elena Ferrante’s oeuvre, she has also brought to Anglo-Saxon readers novels by Primo Levi, Pierpaolo Pasolini, Alessandro Baricco and other classic and contemporary Italian writers. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
"There is a savage honesty to the work of Elena Ferrante that is both unsettling and comforting at once. Here is an author who has poured every ounce of herself onto the page." - The Irish Times
"I can really think of no better praise than to simply say I loved it, though that seems inadequate commendation for such a supremely talented author." - Book Reporter
"I wish I'd published Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels. I've been recommending these to everyone I know since I read the first book, My Brilliant Friend, at the beginning of 2014. When the third book came out in September I had to put aside all submissions for a few days to continue the saga. These feminist novels are the best modern portrait of a female friendship I've come across in literature. I'm impatient for the fourth and final book which is out in autumn 2015." - Adam Freudenheim from Pushkin Press writing in The Guardian
"Her novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader." - The New Yorker
"Ferrante, beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein…writes with a ferocious, intimate urgency." - San Francisco Chronicle
"Cinematic in the density of its detail." --Times Literary Supplement
"I'm so impressed by what seems like a rare ability to put on paper insights into poverty, envy, money, girlhood, corruption, and community, and the way in which these factors impact our lives and options. As a record of working class female experience and associated pressures, it feels powerful, fresh, and important, unlike anything I've read before. It's also so utterly readable, told in the recounting of domestic, everyday episodes." --TYCI
"Ferrante's remarkable achievement so far is to combine the "large, loose, baggy monster" mode of novel and feminist polemic, without killing the appeal of the first or the force of the second... The Neapolitan series so far is a masterclass in how to take off a mask and be oneself behind a barrier of one's own making." - New Humanist
"1950s Naples is vividly and evocatively portrayed....[the novel is] sharp and honest and pulsating with life...I really recommend this book, and I'm thrilled to read that this is part one of a trilogy."Tolstoy is my cat
"An enthralling reading experience, reminiscent of those childhood immersions in a story that turn the volume of the real world down to a whisper. It impressed and delighted me and it was powerful enough to make me revoke my decision not to do any more book reviewing on this blog because I simply had to let you know about it... Ferrante shows us the levers working the vice that warps and crushes the human soul." - A Year of Reading the World
"Our bestselling title this Christmas. 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." - London Review Bookshop
"If you haven t read Elena Ferrante, it's like not having read Flaubert in 1856...Incontrovertibly brilliant." - Anne Meadows, Granta
"...these delicious novels are some of the best I have ever read. A vivid portrait of female friendship sweeps from childhood in the back streets of impoverished Naples during the 1950s through the Twentieth Century and their love affairs, marriages, motherhood. Passionate, intense, full of suspense and cinematic detail, these astonishing novels will keep you gripped throughout the summer." -- Kate Figes, The Daily Mail
"Her novels, whether in Italian or in English, are irresistible - less like sugar is irresistible, and more like pain is irresistible." --Arcade
"People don't merely read Elena Ferrante's novels. They devour them in all-night binges." --Esquire's 80 Books Every Person Should Read
"Our bestselling title this Christmas. 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." - A London Review Bookshop Book of the Day
"If you haven t read Elena Ferrante, it's like not having read Flaubert in 1856...Incontrovertibly brilliant." - Anne Meadows, editor at Granta
"The four novels (the first is _My Brilliant Friend_; the last is out here in September) have become the publishing story of the decade...Ferrante is that rare gem, a novelist with impeccable literary credentials who also spins a good yarn - and who sells." - The Sunday Times Culture (Cover Story)
"I simply have not read anything like this before. It sounds so simple and restricted in nature but Ferrante, like her two protagonists, breaks every barrier with her impassioned, complex and honest narrative...I cannot recommend this book enough." - Franny and Perks
"One of the most iconic sagas in a generation... These novels are genuine page-turners; fast-paced, filmic, vividly alive with the sweat and dust of 1950s Naples." --Waterstones
<?br>"This novel has so much going for it. The prose is very straightfoward and easy to read. The characters are incredibly rich: forever surprising you, full of mystery and contradictions." --Never Stop Reading --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B07BY3RZLB
- Publisher : Europa Editions; 1st edition (11 Oct. 2012)
- Language : English
- File size : 3512 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 385 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 2,789 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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About the author
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 May 2018
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One of the things that helps the girls to do this is their friendship, which evolves through several phases, many marked with ambiguity (including the intriguing question of which is the brilliant one). Later on, there are relationships with boys to complicate matters (at one point, I realised I was thoroughly confused as to the identity of the narrator's current boyfriend - which is perhaps the effect that the writer intended). I greatly enjoyed the story, finishing it in a rush, and look forward to the next volume in the series.
The two have been friends since their childhood in a dense working-class neighbourhood of Naples, where most families were poor and envious and resentful of those who were better off in their own small district, let alone of those in the prosperous parts of Naples. Lina is the dominant of the two: a rebel at school and the leader in daredevil exploits. During their childhood Leni, though often fearful, copies her in almost everything.
There was much violence in the neighbourhood (in one case murderous), and fierce feuds, both among adults and among the children at school – but never between Leni and Lila: Leni had come to accept that Lina would always be first and she second. Lila also had a cruel streak, but Leni never asserted herself for fear of losing Lila’s friendship.
There is much about the relationships between the children at the elementary school and between them and their teachers. Lila was never popular at school – she was too clever, too aggressive, and was skinny and dirty. Leni, on the other hand, was much in demand. She filled out and reached puberty long before Lila did.
Both girls were recommended to take the test for going on to middle school. Lila’s parents refused to pay for the extra preparatory lessons and she could not take the test; but Leni did well in it. Lila did not take it well. She quarrelled violently with her family until her father literally threw her out of a window and she broke her arm.
The dominance of Lila continues in the second part, “Adolescence”. Of course adolescence is a turbulent and confusing period, with frequent changes of mood and of boyfriends. In this book, I found them quite bewildering, especially as two of Leni’s three boy friends were, I thought, distinguishable only by their names. Leni is still dependent on Lila, though Leni has gone on to high school while Lila worked in her father’s shoe-repair shop with her elder brother Rino, who turned from being a rather gentle person into one who was often physically violent towards her. (The shoes they make play a big part in the story.)
When she knew that Leni was studying first Latin, then Greek and then English, Lila taught herself those, too, and was quicker at them than Leni was. Leni did exceptionally well at school by her own efforts - it is never quite clear which of the two of them is the “brilliant friend” - but, whenever Lila was not the spur, Leni attached little value to her own achievements.
We follow their ever-shifting relationships with each other and with various young men. Though Lila had developed physically later than Leni, when Lila did catch up, she became more attractive to the young men than Leni was, and created enormous tensions between her admirers. (At that stage, the girls are only fourteen. The two of them also discuss Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.) From one of these admirers, a communist, Lila learnt how practically everyone in the neighbourhood had been, in one way or another, compromised during the fascist period. But she yields to none of the young men, and is positively hostile to one of them who, better off than the others, is something of a cock of the walk in the neighbourhood and whose advances to her are favoured by her parents, impressed by the gifts he brought on every visit.
On the rebound from the cock of the walk, Lila became friendly with one of his rivals, who ran a grocery shop but had also inherited a lot of wealth from his late father who had been a black-marketeer during the war. In the end, Lila became engaged to him. She became transformed into a fashionable young woman, living in a different world from Leni or indeed from that of her family and neighbours. She ceased to be interested in discussing Leni’s academic work with her. She dismisses Leni’s worries about theology with remarks that are astonishingly precocious for a girl of then fifteen. Leni felt that her academic achievements were worthless.
But Leni became deeply involved, at Lila’s request, in preparation for the wedding, at the same time as she felt, agonisingly, that the wedding would finally separate the two of them. The novel ends with the wedding and the celebratory meal in a restaurant. It is a whirlwind of all the names in the book. Leni feels distant from them all, from the entire society in which she has grown up.
There is a Prologue, in which Lila’s 40 year old son contacts Leni to tell her that his mother had disappeared. Nowhere in the book is there any link to this Prologue. Perhaps the later volumes in the Tetralogy will relate to it – but I have no wish to read them. I cannot share the enthusiasm of so many readers.