My Brilliant Friend
My Brilliant Friend, written by Elena Ferrante, (and translated from Italian by Amy Goldstein) is the first of the Neapolitan novels, covering the meeting and adolescence of Lenu and Lila.
Growing up amongst the impoverished outskirts of Naples, Lenu recounts memories of her childhood in a direct, unflourished manner. The novel visualises the intense friendship and rivalry between the two girls and their intent to flee their neighbourhood and the endless circle of poverty; be it by writing a book, building a shoe factory or going to school. An intent to change their lives and their world for the better without realising how limited and patriarchal they were before.
Don’t be deterred by the changes of names (Lela/Lena/Rafaella), and seemingly irrelevant characters showing up for no apparent reason. It’s a neighbourhood brimming with life and violence – blood and deaths occur seemingly at random, outbursts of tension in a difficult underprivileged, post-wartime but the lack of perceived style—a “who cares for the rules” attitude—makes the writing feel more authentic; a true retelling of a memory rather than a cinematic adaptation.