Now an HBO series: the first volume in the New York Times–bestselling “enduring masterpiece” about a lifelong friendship between two women from Naples (The Atlantic).
Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Elena Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its main characters, the fiery and unforgettable Lila and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflicted friendship. This first novel in the series follows Lila and Elena from their fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence.
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 two women.
“An intoxicatingly furious portrait of enmeshed friends.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Spectacular.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“Captivating.” —The New Yorker
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The first book in Elena Ferrante’s best-selling global phenomenon—a quartet known as the Neapolitan Novels—begins with the disappearance of a sixtysomething narrator’s lifelong best friend. My Brilliant Friend isn’t a mystery novel, but it digs deep into the young lives of its two main characters: writer Elena and her sly and combatively smart friend, Lila. The novel traces their childhoods in a poor, violent, and insular neighborhood of Naples and follows them as precocious teens fighting to escape the suffocating life that’s been laid out for them. Ferrante draws subtle but potent parallels between her heroines’ journeys and the shifting cultural and political landscape of post–World War II Italy. This exquisitely intimate portrait of female friendship will grab you hard (trust us, give it a chapter or two). And once you put the book down, Elena and Lila will linger in your imagination—you’ll be ecstatic that their story fills three more books.
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.