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My Brilliant Friend
Neapolitan Novels, Book One
Elena Ferrante
read on November 23, 2018

I initially heard about these books on Kottke, and feel like every few months I'd see another passing reference to how solid this book (and series) about female relationships and coming-of-age is. I enjoyed it a lot. Though I need to say, this is one that I felt was underserved by the audiobook. I'm not sure why, but I found myself very easily losing attention to it, and would often need to jump back a minute or two. Though for whatever reason I'm not sure, because I don't think the book is boring, or that reading the physical copy wouldn't hold my attention.

This book is a story about two girls as they grow up, told from their perspective. I don't often read books about children, so this may not be very insightful, but (similar to It) I very much enjoyed the limited perspective of the child, and how isolated it was from the 'adult world'. Growing up in Italy in the 1950's, the children have almost no notion of fascism, or of WWII, or of the struggles their parents must face trying to raise children in such a time and place. Tiny elements of these seep through to the reader, but it is deftly done.

Elena and Lila are both incredible characters, and their friendship and various personal hardships and development was powerful to read. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series - though I'm going to try not to rush it.

At that moment I knew what the plebs were, much more clearly than when, years earlier, she had asked me. The plebs were us. The plebs were that fight for food and wine, that quarrel over who should be served first and better, that dirty floor on which the waiters clattered back and forth, those increasingly vulgar toasts. The plebs were my mother, who had drunk wine and now was leaning against my father’s shoulder, while he, serious, laughed, his mouth gaping, at the sexual allusions of the metal dealer. They were all laughing, even Lila, with the expression of one who has a role and will play it to the utmost.

Lastly, I want to leave this link from The New Yorker which is just way better than anything I would write here, and also begins with an interesting piece about "Ferrante" herself, which I've copied into the author bio.

Author Bio:

Elena Ferrante, or “Elena Ferrante,” is one of Italy’s best-known least-known contemporary writers. She is the author of several remarkable, lucid, austerely honest novels, the most celebrated of which is “The Days of Abandonment,” published in Italy in 2002. Compared with Ferrante, Thomas Pynchon is a publicity profligate. It’s assumed that Elena Ferrante is not the author’s real name. In the past twenty years or so, though, she has provided written answers to journalists’ questions, and a number of her letters have been collected and published. From them, we learn that she grew up in Naples, and has lived for periods outside Italy. She has a classics degree; she has referred to being a mother. One could also infer from her fiction and from her interviews that she is not now married. (“Over the years, I’ve moved often, in general unwillingly, out of necessity. . . . I’m no longer dependent on the movements of others, only on my own” is her encryption.) In addition to writing, “I study, I translate, I teach.” And that is it. What she looks like, what her real name is, when she was born, how she currently lives—these things are all unknown. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/01/21/women-on-the-verge