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Translated by Ann Goldstein
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 never before seen in literature.
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.
Elena Ferrante’s piercingly honest portrait of two girls’ path into womanhood is also the story of a nation and a meditation on the nature of friendship itself.
My Brilliant Friend is a modern masterpiece, the work of one of Italy’s great storytellers.
‘The best thing I’ve read this year, far and away…She puts most other writing at the moment in the shade.’
‘Ferrante tackles girlhood and friendship with amazing force.’
‘Read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante—the Jane Austen of Italy.’
‘Gutsy and compulsively readable…One of the more nuanced portraits of feminine friendship in recent memory…Ferrante wisely balances her memoir-like emotional authenticity with a wry sociological understanding of a society on the verge of dramatic change.'
‘Everyone should read anything with [Elena Ferrante’s] name on it.’
‘Beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein…[Ferrante] writes with a ferocious, intimate urgency.'
‘Her novels are intensely, violently personal, and because of this they seem to dangle bristling key chains of confession before the unsuspecting reader…[A] beautiful and delicate tale of confluence and reversal.’
‘Cinematic in the density of its detail.'
‘Elena Ferrante will blow you away.'
‘Ferrante’s fictions are fierce, unsentimental glimpses at the way a woman is constantly under threat, her identity submerged in marriage, eclipsed by motherhood, mythologised by desire. Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are…In My Brilliant Friend, the reclusive Ferrante does something hard but true. It goes back to the before and by looking at it clearly, with humour and warmth and rage, loves it.’
‘A superbly perceptive, nuanced, profound portrait of friendship between two young women in Naples in the 1950s…Rich in the detail of everyday life in a poor but proud neighbourhood, unsentimental, intimate, this is a truly memorable novel.’
‘Ferrante’s prose is deeply passionate and detailed, crafting a story of a relationship in which suffering and joy go hand-in-hand…We may never want to be 16 again, but to go back, just for a few hours, is breathtaking. At times, you will be forced to put the book down, close your eyes, and feel the past rushing in.’
‘Ferrante bewitches with her tiny, intricately drawn world…My Brilliant Friend journeys fearlessly into some of that murkier psychological territory, where questions of individual identity are inextricable from circumstance and the ever-changing identities of others.’
‘The first two Neapolitan novels [My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name]…move far from contrivance, logic or respectability to ask uncomfortable questions about how we live, how we love, how we singe an existence in a deeply flawed world that expects pretty acquiescence from its women. In all their beauty, their ugliness, their devotion and deceit, these girls enchant and repulse, like life, like our very selves.’
‘Elena Ferrante: the best angry woman writer ever!'
‘The Neapolitan series is superb. You should buy it, read it, read it ten times more, lend your copy out, buy another one, rinse, repeat.’
‘Deftly written to create a sharply candid portrayal of female experience, comradeship and competition…It’s a piercing portrayal of a friendship: thoughtful, spirited, needy, envious.’