My reading list is something of a haphazard pile. Made up of reading recommendations from friends and fellow bloggers it’s often a classic-heavy collection made up of titles I’ve jotted down on my phone with little or no recollection of where or why they’re there, to books I bought a number of years ago but haven’t yet got around to reading. Suffice to say it’s ever growing and expanding at a rate over which I have little control. Because of this, it often means I miss the newest releases that everyone’s talking about; indeed I almost never read A Little Life, despite having been sent a proof before it was published, and only got around to do so after being given a second copy as a birthday present.
And so it would have been, that I might never have got around to reading My Brilliant Friend, were it not for the fact that a rather brilliant friend of mine bought me a copy shortly before I flew back to the UK. It was only after receiving said copy that I suddenly realised how many book bloggers and reading aficionados alike were raving about Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and soon after returning to Sydney, I began her widely acclaimed fourth book.
Born in Naples, prior to writing her widely acclaimed Neapolitan novels – My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of a Lost Child – Ferrante was the author of three books and is one of Italy’s best loved writer. Translated by Ann Goldstein, My Brilliant Friend is set in 1950s Naples and tells the tale of friends Elena and Lina as they blossom from children into young adolescents and beyond. Ferrante brilliantly captures the subtleties of female friendships and introduces a colourful cast of characters that inhabit the poor Neapolitan suburb in which it’s set add a richness and vividity to the tale. Essentially a coming-of-age novel, My Brilliant Friend is a raw and beautifully written novel, abundant in simplicity that offers its readers a social observation of what life in 1950s Naples was like. Engaging from the get-go, it’s easy to see why My Brilliant Friend has won its author a legion of fans, eagerly awaiting the next installment.