My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc. on April 7, 2015 (originally published October 19, 2011)
Series: The Neapolitan Novels, #1
Genre(s): fiction, historical fiction
Format & Length: audiobook, 12:38:45
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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, who represent the story of a nation and the nature of friendship.
The story begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood 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 they grow – and as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge – Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.
With My Brilliant Friend, the first in a series, Ferrante proves herself to be one of Italy’s greatest storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted pause-resister, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations – a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new listeners to her work.
My Brilliant Friend has been on my radar for some time and all I’d heard about it had me curious. So when I saw the audiobook was available from my library, I figured it was time to give it a shot. In the end, I had mixed feelings about it.
The story of two young girls, Elena and Lila, as they grow up in Naples in the 1950s, this is very much a character driven story. The characterization is finely drawn and their friendship feels realistic in the way that young girls’ friendships can be both supportive and petty at the same time. Even the minor characters were developed fully, making the entire cast feel authentic.
Aside from the characters themselves, this story was lacking something to keep me fully invested. The writing wasn’t bad and it certainly wasn’t uninteresting. But although plenty of things happened, the plot was too meandering to fully hold my attention. And the ending was awfully abrupt, leaving me wondering if the author had written one really long book that then got chopped into several installments. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the narration of the audio by Hillary Huber, and I’m glad I chose the audiobook rather than a print copy as I may not have finished this book otherwise.
Ultimately, I just think My Brilliant Friend wasn’t the right book for me. There is a bit of a mystery set up at the beginning of the novel that isn’t answered by the end, and I’m guessing it won’t be until the end of the last book. I won’t be continuing on with this series but wouldn’t mind if someone spoiled me with that answer.