My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend❰EPUB❯ ✼ My Brilliant Friend Author Elena Ferrante – Heartforum.co.uk 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 Ferrante s inimitable style lends i 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 Ferrante s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a My Brilliant Epub / nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist Ferrante is the author of a half dozen novels, including The Lost Daughter originally published as La figlia oscura, In , Europa Editions began publication of English translations of Ferrante s Neapolitan Novels, a series about two perceptive and intelligent girls from My Brilliant Epub / Naples who try to create lives for themselves within a violent and stultifying culture Critics have praised her for her devastating power as a novelist and for a style that is pleasingly rigorous and sharply forthright Ferrante holds that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors On th March , The Story of the Lost Child was longlisted for the Man Booker International prize, celebrating the finest in global fiction translated to English.

My Brilliant Friend PDF/EPUB Ú My Brilliant  Epub /
  • Paperback
  • 331 pages
  • My Brilliant Friend
  • Elena Ferrante
  • English
  • 06 February 2017

10 thoughts on “My Brilliant Friend

  1. Kinga says:

    I received this book as a Christmas present from my boss over a year ago In fact, everyone in the office received a copy that s how much our boss wanted us to read it Before you start wondering what sort of wonderful place I worked at, let me clarify it was a literary agency, so such things were totally commonplace So despite the terrible cover, and a rather idiotic blurb I knew it would be a fine book.No review of Ferrante s book is complete without a mention of how no one knows who Ferran I received this book as a Christmas present from my boss over a year ago In fact, everyone in the office received a copy that s how much our boss wanted us to read it Before you start wondering what sort of wonderful place I worked at, let me clarify it was a literary agency, so such things were totally commonplace So despite the terrible cover, and a rather idiotic blurb I knew it would be a fine book.No review of Ferrante s book is complete without a mention of how no one knows who Ferrante is or even if she exists as an individual woman at all Personally, I find this whole mystery of little interest as I share her view that all that the author wants to say she should say in the book and there is no need for the entire marketing circus.Ferrante s Naples novels have been compared to Knausgaard s magnum opus because both authors can be characterised by their hyperreal scrutiny which seemingly can only be achieved in autobiographical novels The autobiographical component is official in case of Knausgaard and alleged in Ferrante s Additionally, Knausgaard has happily joined the marketing circus, which is why I find Ferrante s presumed exhibitionism a lotpalatable These books defiantly ignore all creative writing advice and cheerfully tell and not show, abandon all sensible plot structure and introduce as many characters as they feel like, not really caring whether that whole cast is in any way necessary Neither do they have time for stylistic flourishes Ferrante s prose is bare the language takes a back seat and is nothingthan a tool to the narrative that is pushed forward by its own urgency What we are left with, though, is so vivid and authentic that no carefully polished novel could compete with it This is great news Rejoice, people, because in the age when it is possible to get a DEGREE in novel writing without having to write anything of significance , comes a book which just doesn t give a shit and still manages to steal the hearts of thousands I don t suppose I have to explain what this book is about, because you have other reviews for that But in short it s about the intense friendship and rivalry between two girls growing up in the impoverished outskirts of Naples You might argue it s a book about female experience, and to an extent it certainly is, but judging by how much men love this book, I d say it s rather universal But then, I generally feel female experience, once stripped of all telling signs could be pretty universal, because, you know, women are people too Anyway, to me this book wasabout class than gender That constant anger, violence, the let s get them before they get us feel permeates the novel And the moral, if My Brilliant Friend has a moral at all, is that you can take a girl out of the Naples slums, but you can t take the Naples slums out of the girl Make no mistake, though This is by no means an emotionally manipulative misery memoir This is a story of childhood that simply doesn t know it s underprivileged

  2. Rebecca says:

    I tried I tried I tried For 200 pages I tried to see what it is about this writer that gets such acclaim, but with 130 pages to go, I abandoned it there are just too many other books in my waiting pile that I want to read This book was chosen for book club which is why I persisted so long I normally stop reading a book pretty quickly if it doesn t engage me I didn t develop any concern for the characters, and found it really repetitive different stage school same response from parents I tried I tried I tried For 200 pages I tried to see what it is about this writer that gets such acclaim, but with 130 pages to go, I abandoned it there are just too many other books in my waiting pile that I want to read This book was chosen for book club which is why I persisted so long I normally stop reading a book pretty quickly if it doesn t engage me I didn t develop any concern for the characters, and found it really repetitive different stage school same response from parents same competitiveness with Lila it just went on and on and didn t seem to GO anywhere It was supposed to be the story of a friendship from childhood until womanhood, set in Naples in the 1950 s but I then discovered this book only goes up until the two girls are 16 there is a sequel and at that point I decided OH ENOUGH I realised I was not even going to get some sort of satisfaction from finishing it Endless minor characters proved annoying and I gave up trying to keep up with who they were despite the list in the front of the book as well as all the interludes with various boys

  3. Rick Riordan says:

    I have been studying Italian in my free time and so decided to try reading one of the most popular Italian writers of today Elena Ferrante There have been many articles about this author s mysterious anonymity Her real identity is unknown except to her publisher because she wishes to have a normal life I get that Still, it only adds to the intrigue, as you can t help but wonder who writes these marvelous books My Brilliant Friend is not the sort of book I would normally pick up as I prefer I have been studying Italian in my free time and so decided to try reading one of the most popular Italian writers of today Elena Ferrante There have been many articles about this author s mysterious anonymity Her real identity is unknown except to her publisher because she wishes to have a normal life I get that Still, it only adds to the intrigue, as you can t help but wonder who writes these marvelous books My Brilliant Friend is not the sort of book I would normally pick up as I prefer fantasy fiction This is contemporary realistic fiction about two women who grow up together in the 1950s and 1960s in a poor neighborhood in Naples The cast of characters is large, and for me, an American reader, I was missing some cultural context that made it a little bewildering at first I read the book in English because my Italian is not that good yet and the style was both deeply intimate and jarringly matter of fact The narrator Elena tells us everything about her upbringing in a neighborhood where harsh poverty is the norm and family violence is unremarkable, even, for instance, when a father sends a daughter flying out a second story window Elena grows up side by side with her friend foil personal albatross Lila, who is naturally brilliant at everything andbeautiful than Elena, but who is held down by circumstances to work in her father s shoe store while Elena has a chance to escape her life through education The book is a blow by blow confessional, following the two girls from their earliest memories through their early adulthood The short chapters keep the pages turning, and by the end of the novel I found myself very involved in the lives of the characters It is epic in the best sense of the word, and yet quiet and personal in its scope At the end, there is a cliffhanger so brutal I immediately had to go and buy the next volume of this series Wow, cliffhangers work I should try them some time

  4. Fionnuala says:

    type, edit, delete, undo delete, type, edit, delete..deep breathstart againtype, edit, delete make a coffeetype, edit, delete pour a drinktype, edit, delete..desperation sets in The dog ate my review ..Why, why, why can t I find any words to say about this book The problem is I don t know what I feel about it In fact, the book has left me without any feelings, good or bad It has left me blank I m not used to feeling blank after reading.I read Ferrante s type, edit, delete, undo delete, type, edit, delete..deep breathstart againtype, edit, delete make a coffeetype, edit, delete pour a drinktype, edit, delete..desperation sets in The dog ate my review ..Why, why, why can t I find any words to say about this book The problem is I don t know what I feel about it In fact, the book has left me without any feelings, good or bad It has left me blank I m not used to feeling blank after reading.I read Ferrante s The Days of Abandonment last year and I was excited while reading Ifeltevery line of it intensely I was so stimulated by the writing the words and the dramatic tone seemed to match the episodes of the narrative quite perfectly that I started writing the review even before I d finished reading the book With this one, I skimmed, I nodded off, I left it down often and only reluctantly picked it up again I finally finished it on a flight after I d deliberately not carried any other reading material with me In my desperation to find something to say about the book, I even thought about rereading it

  5. Glenn Sumi says:

    UPDATED November 2018 here s my review of the new HBO miniseries Hint It s just as good as the book My Brilliant Friend, a.k.a My Brilliant New ObsessionBelieve all the hype This is a rich, immersive, deeply satisfying book that, like many great novels, captures a particular time and place with complete authority I can t wait to read the other books in the series In a dirt poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples in the 1950s, bright work UPDATED November 2018 here s my review of the new HBO miniseries Hint It s just as good as the book My Brilliant Friend, a.k.a My Brilliant New ObsessionBelieve all the hype This is a rich, immersive, deeply satisfying book that, like many great novels, captures a particular time and place with complete authority I can t wait to read the other books in the series In a dirt poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples in the 1950s, bright working class girls Elena Greco our narrator and bestie Lila Cerrullo survive childhood and adolescence, learning how to navigate school, boys, sex and the limited opportunities available to them because of their class and gender.Initially I found the book disorienting The prologue is set decades later and involves people we don t yet know Lila has disappeared and Elena is trying to discover what happened to her Presumably these books are her way of finding that out.And once the story proper begins, it takes a while to keep all the names straight Who is Nino, again Enzo What are the grocers called It doesn t help that only Elena calls her friend Lila everyone else calls her Lina, and her birth name is Rafaella Also Elena is often called Lenu An index of the family names at the beginning proves very helpful But Elena Ferrante s prose is ravishing It s graceful without being precious, mature and knowing while still immediate and visceral She literally plunges you into the lives of these children Family vendettas take on the power of myth middle school is a fraught war zone where learning goes beyond what s in the books each change in the girls bodies is registered and assessed in terms of their newfound power or lack of it Late childhood and early adolescence can be a painful time the stakes are high your identity isn t yet formed There s a sense of danger lurking everywhere One month that boy in class could be a friendly ally a few months later he might spit at your feet, ignore you and take up your best friend Every situation, not just a class assignment, is a problem to be solved.Near the end of the book, the way one character orchestrates her way out of one engagement and into another is worthy of something from The Godfather movies In its insights, rich texture and violence murder, threats, being thrown out of a window the book reminded me of Alice Munro s early masterpiece Lives Of Girls And Women And several things will continue to haunt me The girls first trip outside their neighbourhood when they run away How the title is mentioned in the final section of the book this makes you wonder who, exactly, is the brilliant one A scene in which the neighbourhood s teens, all dressed up, cross into a fancier part of town and realize, with insecurity and anger, how limited their world and lives are The climactic wedding scene, in which all the threads of the story come together sex, romance, class, destiny up until the surprising twist in the final line, which will make you reconsider a big chunk of the story Elena s introduction to the pleasures and dangers of sexuality The idea of how we sometimes act to impress friends, mimic being courageous by thinking of others actions, orsubtly, do things while imagining our friends doing them The longings, fears and sheer awkwardness of adolescence The legacy of fascism, complete with stories about what family did what to whom, and the changing nature of Italian society The idea of how education gets you ahead but also alienates you from the class you might soon be leaving behindFerrante a pen name has structured the book so carefully that an early sequence in which the girls try to retrieve their dolls in a sewer contains, in miniature, everything that the book will eventually deal with lost innocence, petty jealousy, money, imagination, sinister men, courage, and the way that one person s account of the facts can vary drastically with the so called truth.Now that I ve come down with Ferrante fever, I look forward to the next novel, The Story Of A New Name

  6. Jaidee says:

    1 sweet Jesusthis is the first of four books stars 2018 Read I was Most Afraid to Hate Award First of all a bit of translationIn English we say blahblahblah In Italian they say blablabla Ms Ferrante separates this book into two sections Childhood 18 chapters and Adolescence 62 chapters Childhood Ch 1 to 9 Ms Ferrante writes blablablablablablablablablab and blablablablablaJaidee God I hope this gets better Childhood Ch 10 14Ms Ferrante writes blablablablabla and blablablabla 1 sweet Jesusthis is the first of four books stars 2018 Read I was Most Afraid to Hate Award First of all a bit of translationIn English we say blahblahblah In Italian they say blablabla Ms Ferrante separates this book into two sections Childhood 18 chapters and Adolescence 62 chapters Childhood Ch 1 to 9 Ms Ferrante writes blablablablablablablablablab and blablablablablaJaidee God I hope this gets better Childhood Ch 10 14Ms Ferrante writes blablablablabla and blablablablablaJaidee This is boring me to tears Adolescence Ch 1 12Ms Ferrante writes bla bla bla bla bla bla blablaJaidee What s with the three creepy little girls with crinoline on the cover Adolescence Ch 13 36Ms Ferrante writes blablablablablabalbla blablablabla bla bla blaJaidee Oh I guess this about a lot of blablabla.when does it get good.forty three people and their mother insisted that I read this Adolescence Ch 37 to 54Ms Ferrante writes blablabla blabla bla blabla blaJaidee Please let this be over and What the fuck am I missing.oh yes maybe a few blablablas Adolescence Ch 54 to 62Ms Ferrante writes Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla Jaidee Am I in Purgatory I am guessing the content of Books 2 through 4 will beBlablablablablabla andblablablablablabla I will not be finding out I say Bleh Bleh Blech

  7. Lucie Cavaroc says:

    The entire time I spent reading this book I asked myself What is wrong with this book Why am I having so much trouble getting into it It is incredibly slow paced, but I also believe the Italian to English translation must be flawed Many of the sentences were confusing and even contradictory The redeeming factor, and the reason I gave it two stars instead of one, was that the Italian atmosphere was strongly prevalent and somewhat enjoyable I learned what living in Naples in the 50s mus The entire time I spent reading this book I asked myself What is wrong with this book Why am I having so much trouble getting into it It is incredibly slow paced, but I also believe the Italian to English translation must be flawed Many of the sentences were confusing and even contradictory The redeeming factor, and the reason I gave it two stars instead of one, was that the Italian atmosphere was strongly prevalent and somewhat enjoyable I learned what living in Naples in the 50s must have been like

  8. Maxwell says:

    4.5 stars If I were to describe Elena Ferrante s My Brilliant Friend in one word it would be mythic The minutiae of Elena and Lila s lives into which Ferrante dives takes on these mythic proportions, pulling the reader along on a tense and frightful story But at first glance, the story is anything but tense and frightful It s a story of female friendship, between two lower class girls in Naples following WWII Ferrante, with precision and passion, recounts the lives of these girls as anyth 4.5 stars If I were to describe Elena Ferrante s My Brilliant Friend in one word it would be mythic The minutiae of Elena and Lila s lives into which Ferrante dives takes on these mythic proportions, pulling the reader along on a tense and frightful story But at first glance, the story is anything but tense and frightful It s a story of female friendship, between two lower class girls in Naples following WWII Ferrante, with precision and passion, recounts the lives of these girls as anything less than ideal There s an underlying push and pull to their friendship that goes against the expected narrative of girlhood It s compelling and constantly teetering on the edge of disaster, again bringing back this theme of myth and how each detail lends itself to something greater, something disastrous We learn as the characters learn Ferrante excels at establishing a tone fit to the story When Elena, our narrator, is unsure, we are unsure When she s jealous, we re jealous She s spiteful at times, and compassionate at others It all builds upon itself to create a vivid atmosphere that is only enhanced by the gritty Neapolitan setting I wasn t convinced by the first half of the book But the second part really sold me And I think that if I were to go back now and re read the beginning, I d be muchcomfortable with the characters, the setting and the narrative structure It s disconcerting and disorienting at first, getting thrown into a world with so many characters and so little hand holding But I appreciate Ferrante s confidence in the reader She gives youthan you might handle, but once you get a grip on it, it s incredibly satisfying I m intrigued to see where the story goes, so much so that I ordered the next book in the series immediately after finishing this one I only expect the books to get better and better and based on what Ferrante s proved with this one, I m sure I won t be disappointed.First read January 14 23, 2016Second read December 23 26, 2016Third read October 3 7, 2018

  9. Diane says:

    This novel has so much violence that it should come with some kind of rating Seriously, I had no idea it was so dangerous to grow up in Naples I feel no nostalgia for our childhood it was full of violence My Brilliant Friend is the story of two childhood friends, Elena and Lila It is the first in a series, and I confess that when I started reading it, I did not intend to continue with them I was just going to read this first one to see what all the fuss over Ferrante was about It took me This novel has so much violence that it should come with some kind of rating Seriously, I had no idea it was so dangerous to grow up in Naples I feel no nostalgia for our childhood it was full of violence My Brilliant Friend is the story of two childhood friends, Elena and Lila It is the first in a series, and I confess that when I started reading it, I did not intend to continue with them I was just going to read this first one to see what all the fuss over Ferrante was about It took me a while to get into the book there are so many families in the neighborhood, and everyone has nicknames that it was tough to remember who was who and who did what to which relative There is a cast of characters listed at the front of the book, but it s still confusing About midway through the book, I really connected with the two main characters, especially after they started going to school I could relate to Elena s jealousy about Lila, and how she admired and imitated her strength Occasionally Lila opens up and admits how important Elena is to her, and those moments are lovely Ferrante s descriptions are so good that eventually it felt as if I had been living with these families.But what exactly is the story, you ask Well, there are lots of them There are stories about cruel boys in the neighborhood There are stories about Lila s dream of making it rich by designing special shoes to sell There are stories about the competitions at school, and how Elena and Lila would push each other to learnThere are stories of Lila s family, and how her father would abuse her when he lost his temper There are stories about the men who pursued Lila when she became a beautiful teenager, and how she risked offending a powerful family There is the story of Elena s first boyfriend, and how she has to navigate high school And finally, there is the story of a wedding.The wedding scene is what closes out this first novel, and something happens there that convinced me to read the second book You win, Ferrante.Update A Few Weeks LaterI have gotten so involved in this series that I am reading Book 3 and have already ordered Book 4 My advice to those starting out is to be patient with this first novel a lot of the events that happen in Elena s childhood have long lasting effects, like seeds that had to be planted so they could sprout later on TheI read about these two women, theI admire them I highly recommend these Ferrante novels Favorite Quote Right away, from the first day, school had seemed to me a much nicer place than home It was the place in the neighborhood where I felt safest, I went there with excitement I paid attention to the lessons, I carried out with the greatest diligence everything that I was told to carry out, I learned But most of all I liked pleasing the teacher, I liked pleasing everyone A Disturbing But Incredible Passage We lived in a world in which children and adults were often wounded, blood flowed from the wounds, they festered, and sometimes people died One of the daughters of Signora Assunta, the fruit and vegetable seller, had stepped on a nail and died of tetanus Signora Spagnuole s youngest child had died of croup A cousin of mine, at the age of twenty, had gone one morning to move some rubble and that night was dead, crushed, the blood pouring out of his ears and mouth My mother s father had been killed when he fell from a scaffolding at a building site The father of Signor Peluso was missing an arm, the lathe had caught him unawares The sister of Giuseppina, Signor Peluso s wife, had died of tuberculosis at twenty two The oldest son of Don Achille I had never seen him, and yet I seemed to remember him had gone to war and died twice drowned in the Pacific Ocean, then eaten by sharks The entire Melchiorre family had died clinging to each other, screaming with fear, in a bombardment Old Signorina Clorinda had died inhaling gas instead of air Guanine, who was in fourth grade when were were in first, had died one day because he had come across a bomb and touched it Legion, with whom we had played in the courtyard, or maybe not, she was only a name, had died of typhus Our world was like that, full of words that killed croup, tetanus, typhus, gas, war, lathe, rubble, work, bombardment, bomb, tuberculosis, infection With these words and those years I bring back the many fears that accompanied me all my life

  10. Kelly says:

    When did we all start talking about Elena Ferrante, guys I can t remember was it last year Maybe 2013 I know she s been writing for far longer than that, but it was definitely only recently that she became A Thing Whenever it was, we should have been talking about her sooner And with different words Better words Words whose value hasn t been sucked out by the marketing blurbs they ve been a part of, with the same accompanying modifiers if I never hear compulsively readable again that When did we all start talking about Elena Ferrante, guys I can t remember was it last year Maybe 2013 I know she s been writing for far longer than that, but it was definitely only recently that she became A Thing Whenever it was, we should have been talking about her sooner And with different words Better words Words whose value hasn t been sucked out by the marketing blurbs they ve been a part of, with the same accompanying modifiers if I never hear compulsively readable again that would be okay with me, marketing departments Too many eyes will glaze over when I use these words that would once have excited the grab the keys and run to the bookstore response this book deserves And that might make you, like me, not pick this up for absolutely years after you read this.So I need better words Words that will make you pick it up tomorrow Because I still can t believe I somehow developed the impression that this was a book that I could miss How did I somehow think this wasn t a series of books that I should have had on pre order every time like it was Game of Thronesor, you know, something better than that given the quality of the last installment But in the absence of an unused vocabulary floating around somewhere I ll try to convince you with the words I have, because and please read this in the tone of your dad giving advice at a crucial life moment I don t want you to make the mistakes that I did, sonny boy How do I love this novel Let me count the ways My Brilliant Friend is the first installment of Ferrante s Neapolitan trilogy It is an old woman s memories of her friendship with a girl named Lila in the slums of 1950s Naples They are both clever girls growing up in the midst of a grinding cycle of poverty and isolation generated by the problems of the post war, post Fascist Italian state and the pre war, mostly in name only Italian unification Both of them, along with the other children of the neighborhood, have a possibility of escaping the cycle and breaking out into the new Marshall Plan supported dolce vita and some of the story is about that But not mostly Mostly it s about what it s like to be blessed cursed enough to have a childhood friend who is the center of your universe, and how that friendship can literally change all the things in your life, and make you the person that you are in the process of becoming Straightforward enough, yes You ve read that before Sure but then why is it so poignant Why did I spend hours upon hours with this book yesterday, unable to put it down How did such an ordinary story work such undeniable magic There are many answers to that, but let s start with this The story The plot was the most natural, organic thing I ve ever read She started telling it and kept on doing it without pauses for literary reflections or metaphors, or for pretty much anything that might send the oh right, this is fiction, signal to your brain She let the damn thing be and run its course without interfering She didn t shy away from having her character be involved in all the quotidian things of childhood or adolescence zits, dresses, best friends, boyfriends, finding out what bad words mean, and endless status competitions But never once did she make it feel tired or like something I ve read a zillion times Nobody came equipped with signifier clue words or pre packaged, recognizable YA storylines, with immature emotional truths being repeated in italics, in between descriptions of clothing and hair And you know what was fascinating There totally was a popular girl everyone wanted here, there were mean bullies, nerdy intellectuals, hot jocks, slutty cheerleaders, apparently motivationlessly awful villains, and our heroine was even intellectual and had glasses But that never occurred to me until I started to write this review.This is mostly because Ferrante allows her characters a kind of full, honest emotional range of expression that I ve rarely seen in books about children and teenagers She conveys the pettiness and center of the universe feeling that characterizes childhood without ever quite making you detach from or become disgusted with the characters involved When someone s doll is thrown away, and another character retaliates, instead of rolling her eyes and refereeing whose fault it is, Ferrante just keeps staring at both characters and watching them go through that moment and what happens afterwards There s no adult intervention, whether that s with an adult character or with an adult narrator.As is typical with Ferrante, this is deliberate a choice that serves several purposes at once One of which is to highlight the lack of fully developed adults anywhere in these children s lives This is one of the many effective ways Ferrante finds to seep you in the atmosphere of the Naples neighborhood where this all takes place, right from the beginning, but beautifully, dropping it in between the cracks of action and thoughtI waited to see if Lila would have second thoughts and turn back I knew what she wanted to do, I had hoped that she would forget about it, but in vain The street lamps were not yet lit, nor were the lights on the stairs From the apartments came irritable voices To follow Lila, I had to leave the bluish light of the courtyard and enter the black of the doorway When I finally made up my mind, I saw nothing at first, there was only an odor of old junk and DDT Then I got used to the darkness We kept to the side where the wall was, she two steps ahead, I two steps behind, torn between shortening the distance or letting it increase I can still feel my shoulder inching along the flaking wall and the idea that the steps were very high, higher than my own apartment across the way There was an odor of saut ing garlic Maria, Don Achille s wife, would put me in the pan of boiling oil, the children would eat me, he would suck my head the way my father did with mullets Never once does she need to set aside pages and pages of description as some authors do, because it s given to us in pieces like that, while we re following the action, until we have a full picture of a crumbling courtyard of a creaky old apartment building on a beaten down street in a bad part of town without ever really knowing how we got there.She also does a lot, effectively, with repetition Repetition shows us a lot about why the characters are the way that they are The violence of the neighborhood, in particular, is depicted with a frighteningly normalizing banality We see violence happen over and over again not as an isolated, cinematic horror, the fright of one s life as something mentioned as an afterthought,they argued, and then sometimes, after dinner, he beat herThe deliberate use of sometimes was chilling, like we re not even hearing about all the other times when it happens It s not even worthy of comment What s eventerrifying is the dispassionate, impartial gaze turned on it by a narrator who has never known anything different It only occurs to the sixty year old character who is the actual narrator of the story about two thirds of the way through to get outside of herself and mention that she realizes now that her neighborhood was not the norm it s like in telling the story she put herself back under the spell and forgot that herself It takes something 2015 Hollywood level cinematically, publicly violent for anyone to feel the slightest bit bad about something that happens view spoiler like throwing your eleven year old daughter out a window into the street hide spoiler The pernicious, weed like growth of a particularly violent form of aggressive masculinity is at the root of most of the problem, but its societal reinforcement and indeed, the respect shown for those who display it, is shown, through this enforced repetition, to be the true cancer that not even young boys with the best of intentions and a deliberate intent to break the cycle seem to be able to escape Not to mention the girls who never had a chance to begin with Something that further increased the powerfully true impression I got from her writing was her gentle use of not quite chronological time Time in the novel wavers into being, then very slowly circles back to its origin point until you ve almost forgotten where you started But even this tried and true literary device never felt like a literary device Again, it was so well and seamlessly executed it felt like a natural, organic process that was necessary to telling the story It was like what happens when someone is telling you a story and realizes you don t have the context to understand it, so they back it up and up until they feel they ve given you the whole story, and then only just remember why they were telling you the story in the first place.But beyond that, the prose itself Ferrante has that magical Tolstoy thing The power of it isn t in the individual sentence, which I guarantee you will be perfectly ordinary, but a string of sentences put together in just the right order It is almost never going to be a striking word choice that nabs you, but rather a continuous flow that lulls you into its depths so that you re surprised awake occasionally, just realizing that it s happened to you I honestly can t think of anybody else except Tolstoy when he s not ranting or religious, or Austen when she wasn t being mischievous or clever, who can give the impression of being so utterly absent, as if someone simply left a kind of recorder on that would let you see what was going on inside and outside of the characters heads.But while the plot is compelling enough, the hot, poisonous atmosphere and her rare gift for naturalistic, barely there powerful writing arethan enough reason to show up, that s what you notice later, after you re done and you can breathe normally again.At the time all you really notice are these girls It s Lila Lila, Lila, Lila If you ve ever been friends with someone who was demonstrably smarter than you or you were so convinced they were as to make no difference , then you know Lila You know what it s like to know that no matter what you do you ll always feel inferior whether they praise you or encourage you or not It makes so much sense to me that Lila was the transformative experience for Elena She s a heady thing for a child to experience She is a person who is seemingly born free of gaze She ll process what you say for the words you actually use not the social status you have while you say it, not the yearning she has to be like you or not like you at all, nor does she care about the image she is projecting to you One of the things the narrator worries about in Lila in 1950s Italy is that she doesn t have the instinctive, eyes down response that the other girls do when they are getting harassed on the street Lila threatens people with a knife, or simply asks them curious questions about what on earth they re talking about when they do that to her She literally stares down or completely ignores a gaze that is the all encompassing foundation, path and walls of all the women and, to be frank, most of the men around her That s an intoxicating cocktail of a thing to be around A possibly dangerous, even ruinous thing to be around, if you re a smart, insecure teenager with an imagination and a constant societal message that you are not good enough Like Elena, the narrator Her character development was very cleverly done She had us, and Elena, so focused on her friend that her own story seems to happen under the radar, in asides, as if just necessary for context and to get us to the next Lila story Which is a brilliant way to depict someone with the kind of self esteem issues and brewing existential problems that are the major driver of most of Elena s choices She becomes a person somewhere along the way, without even realizing it she builds an entire personality around Lila, the only thing she can see as worth motivating herself for in her horrible little dirty world But it makes her beautiful moment of self awareness at the end of the novel all thepoignant She is shocked to discover that a disappointment she has in her own life, unrelated to Lila in any way, is important to her This realization of her own, independent being as a person means she is able to have her first out of body experience, and look beyond the isolation and suffocation of her neighborhood to see herself with a gaze that might actually benefit her, in the endI discovered that I had considered the publication of those few lines, my name in print, as a sign that I really had a destiny, that the hard work of school would surely lead upward, somewhere, that Maestra Oliviero had been right to push me forward and to abandon Lila Do you know what plebs are Yes, Maestra And at that moment I knew what plebs were, muchclearly 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 was now 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 But most of all there is the friendship between these two girls The content of it is some of the most honest that I ve seen It s neither a sentimental Victorian ode to sisterly support nor is it as cynical as somemodern reinterpretations of female friendship would suggest It trusts you to understand that these are real people and to acknowledge that because you are willing to acknowledge it within yourself without ever telling you to acknowledge it We know that the narrator doesn t mean it maliciously, necessarily, when she needs a boyfriend because she thinks her friend has one, that she throws her friend s doll down a hole because her friend did, that she feels better if she looks a little better than her sometimes We also see that whenever something truly bad happens to her friend she notices it and she helps she gets her through some tough situations when she has no obligation to We also see how fixated she is on her friend, and how nothing is really worth it to her if she doesn t share in it with her she shows us what it means when your life is really, as literally as possible, almost entirely about your perception of another person We see this so often in the context of romantic literature, but almost never in the context of friendship I think the latter is farcommonI do not claim the novel is faultless There were two moments where her assured voice broke and she fell down into the exaggerated metaphorical exercises I was so happy to see absent from most of the book Though one of those times is forgivable, because it came from a dramatic adolescent who dramatically drew out the metaphor herself in the weird, obsessive way that teenagers do I also did wish that we might have spent slightlytime with the narrator herself, in her own home and her own life so that we might have gotten to know her better But that was a reader s wish for a sympathetic character to know herself better, mostly that s not what this story was about It would have been the poorer for following what I wanted it to do The faults were mostly the faults of the character, put there deliberately to emphasize a character trait So perhaps it is nearly faultless after all What did I miss Maybe someone else can tell me where she went wrong, because I can t find it Or I probably could, actually, but I think I ll be much too busy reading the next installment The Story of a New Name Which, I predict, is exactly what you ll be doing as soon as you finish this book Go on I ll get you startedMy friendship with Lila began the day we decided to go up the dark stairs that led, step after step, flight after flight, to the door of Don Achille s apartment I remember the violet light of the courtyard, the smells of a warm spring evening The mothers were making dinner, it was time to go home, but we delayed, challenging each other, without ever saying a word, testing our courageThis book originally appeared on my blog at

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