“We were twelve years old, but we walked along the hot streets of the neighborhood, amid the dust and flies that the occasional old trucks stirred up as they passed, like two old ladies taking the measure of lives of disappointment, clinging tightly to each other. No one understood us, only we two—I thought—understood one another.”
― Elena Ferrante,
My Brilliant Friend is the first of the four part Neapolitan Novel series by the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante. The book is a translation of the original, and this probably is one of the reasons as to why I took a hell lot of time to complete it (actually over a month). The narration seemed to drag on and the plot was presented in a sort of hotch-potch manner. Nevertheless I did manage to read through completely, and the two main protagonists- Elena Graco aka Lenu and Rafaella Cerulla aka Lila, would stay in my mind for a long time to come (this despite the fact that I didn’t quite enjoy the narrative style).
The Neapolitan Series follows the lives of two friends from a neighborhood in Naples in Italy. Living lives amidst poverty and turmoil, their bond grows in the most unique fashion. Growing up under tough conditions, the girls begin to rely on each other to get ahead in life. Elena is the diligent young girl in school whereas, Lila is a child prodigy. She teaches herself to read and write to get those high grades in class. Elena is fascinated by her friend and worships her in many a ways. She considers her a “Brilliant Friend”. As the two grow up, their paths begin to diverge. Where Elena goes on to attend high school, Lila must satisfy herself in her father’s shoe shop as her parents refuse to pay for her education after elementary school. Lila designs her own academic program that serves as a valuable tool for Elena, pushing her towards literary excellence.
Yet, Elena is intimated by her friend and she finds herself pushing to keep up with Lila. Despite the love between the two, there is an element of disdain too. Where Lila would greet the small victories of Elena’s with utmost aloofness, Elena would often become haughty with her successes.
For me, the book may have failed on certain fronts. But I did love the way it sketched different shades of female friendships. My Brilliant Friend speaks volumes about some lifelong relationships that go through ups and downs, yet manage to remain intact.
This post is a part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge where I write about twenty six women characters from books, who have left an impact on me. You can read the previous posts here- Women in Books