My Brilliant Friend is the gripping first volume in Elena Ferrante’s widely acclaimed Neapolitan Novels. This exquisitely written quartet creates an unsentimental portrait of female experience, rivalry and friendship. The story of Elena and Lila begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples. They learn to rely on each other and discover that their destinies are bound up in the intensity of their relationship.
I found this book utterly gripping. Elena and Lila are the quintessential ‘frenemies’ with a relationship which is simultaneously beautiful and brutal. One friends success evokes both joy and jealousy in the other. Similarly ones girls failures lead to both sorrow and smug satisfaction from her friend. These characters are so powerfully and honestly written that it was almost confronting to read. Set against the back drop of poverty, violence and a rapidly changing social and political environment, My Brilliant Friend is a must read.