My Brilliant Friend
Booklist Reviews 2012 September #1
*Starred Review* In a poor, midcentury Italian neighborhood, two girls, Elena and Lila, exhibit remarkable intelligence early in school, at a time when money is scarce and education a privilege, especially for girls. Only Elena is allowed to continue in school, and she devotes herself to her studies, while Lila redirects her own talent toward her family's business. The girls use each other, sometimes as crutches, sometimes as inspiration, but as they approach adolescence, their friendship is challenged by their changing bodies and attitudes toward the world. Elena increasingly turns toward education as a means of escaping, while Lila looks to her burgeoning beauty as a means of altering the violence and bitterness that threaten their neighborhood. The first book in a prospective trilogy, My Brilliant Friend is a compelling and moving coming-of-age story set in an impoverished neighborhood struggling to come into its own in a rapidly shrinking world. Celebrated Italian author Ferrante's unflinching and insightful prose, which was rancorous in her novel Days of Abandonment (2010), is captivating and hopeful here and will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment. If comparison is to be found, it may be in Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants (2006) or fellow Italian Silvia Avallone's Swimming to Elba (2012). Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 2012 August #4
The world of Elena and Lila, Neapolitan girls growing up after the Second World War, is small, casually violent, and confined to their poor neighborhood where everyone knows everyone and the few prosperous families dominate. There are rules and expectations, and everyone knows and lives by them. Except Lila: smarter and bolder than the others, she does what she wants, drawing Elena, who narrates the story, in her wake. But this is more than a conventional up-from-poverty tale. Elena completes her schooling; Lila does not. Elena leaves the neighborhood and eventually Naples and Southern Italy; Lila does not. Yet it is Lila and her dreams and caprices that drive everything. In fact, the narrative exists because the adult Elena, hearing that Lila has disappeared, decides to write Lila's story. And she does, in dense, almost sociological detail (the list of the members of the key families is actually necessary). This is both fascinating—two girls, their families, a neighborhood, and a nation emerging from war and into an economic boom—and occasionally tedious, as day-to-day life can be. But Lila, mercurial, unsparing, and, at the end of this first episode in a planned trilogy from Ferrante (The Lost Daughter), seemingly capable of starting a full-scale neighborhood war, is a memorable character. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC