Saturday, 11 January 2014

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

Why I read it: This brief Fresh Air review made the trilogy sound so haunting I asked for it for Christmas.

Podcasts: Fresh Air, New Yorker Out Loud

Brow: Upper middle

Summary: The first in a trilogy about a friendship between two Neapolitan women, this book covers the time from when they meet as 8 year old schoolgirls growing up in a violent working-class neighbourhood in the late 1950s until one of them gets married at 16. Their lives take very different courses early on when a teacher recognises how intelligent they both are and recommends that they be allowed to progress to middle school. Elena, the narrator, is allowed to continue in school and possibly get the chance to escape the restricted life of her mother, but Lila is forbidden. The two remain friends despite their very different life trajectories and the tensions they cause.

What I liked about it: Everything. This book is amazing. As the reviewers say, this is the best novelist you've never heard of. But to be more specific: Like perhaps everyone who has read this book, I too am in love with the character of Lila, a precocious, perceptive, combative girl who seems determined to get out of her dismal situation by any means necessary. Unfortunately, most of her schemes: education, writing a novel, designing shoes that will set the world on fire, fail to pan out and she's left with marrying her way out of misery at 16.

What I didn't like about it: Nothing. You should read this book.

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