My Brilliant Friend

READ THE WORLD – Italy: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Translated by Ann Goldstein.

In a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples, lives intelligent and opinionated Lila, a bookish Elena. They are best friends who met aged ten but as they grow older and become teenagers, their paths divide slightly. Elena continues to study while Lila has to work to help her family.

My Brilliant Friend is the first book in a four-book series called the Neapolitan Novels. This adult literary fiction series spans the lives of Lila and Elena. My Brilliant Friend begins with Elena receiving a call from Lila’s son saying she’s missing and from there the story jumps back to 1950s Naples and Elena and Lila’s childhood. Elena is the narrator of this story and as it’s from her perspective it’s easy to see that there’s perhaps some bias to how she paints certain characters. Elena idolises Lila, she does what Lila does and Lila’s thirst for knowledge pushes Elena to study harder.

Elena can see very few faults with Lila, both in terms of her personality and her appearance. When it comes to how Elena describes herself, she’s much more critical. She doesn’t like how she looks, and she thinks cruel things about how her mother looks too.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Hillary Huber and I have to say, I think if I’d read the physical copy, I would have gotten bored quickly so the fact it was on audio and I could listen to it as I walked to work or did the cleaning made me continue with it. The narration was good but it’s the story itself that didn’t really grab. The writing is often lovely and paints a vivid picture of post-World War Two Italy and how Elena and the other children don’t understand the political or financial issues they’ve been born into.

In many ways, not a lot happens in My Brilliant Friend. Because it follows Elena and Lila from childhood until their mid-teens, a lot of it is about their school life, the grades they get, what books their read, and as they get a bit older it becomes about boys and dating and going through puberty. For a large proportion of the book I was waiting for something big to happen, but that big thing never came. Yes, there were family arguments and friends had fights, but there was never anything that gripped me.

My Brilliant Friend is very much a character-driven story and I presume by the fourth book the story, and the characters ages, will have caught up to where Elena is informed Lila is missing at the beginning of this book and continue from there. However, there wasn’t enough about My Brilliant Friend that I liked in order to continue with this series. It is very well-written and I found both Elena and Lila equal parts frustrating and sympathetic many times, but their story was never something I truly became invested in. 3/5.

Bout of Books 24 TBR

Bout of Books is a readathon that’s been happening a couple of times a year, for multiple years now. It’s a readathon I’ve always wanted to take part in but I’ve either not realised when the readathon is happening, so I miss it, or life just gets in the way of reading.

The next Bout of Books readathon starts tomorrow, Monday 7 January, at 12:01am and finishes at 11:59pm on Sunday 13 January and this time I am prepared! Tomorrow is my first day back at work after the Christmas break but otherwise my week is going to be very normal, so I should have plenty of time for reading.

The thing I like about Bout of Books is there are no challenges or targets, instead the aim is to read more than you usually would in a week. Depending on the books I’m reading and life, I can read two books a week, so it’d be great if I could kickstart my reading in 2019 with three books read this week.

I’ve borrowed the audiobook of My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante from my library and I plan to start that on my walk to work tomorrow morning. That’ll probably take me longer than a week to read so I have some physical books on my Bout of Books TBR too.

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
Augustown by Kei Miller
Under the Tripoli Sky by Kamal Ben Hameda, translated by Adriana Hunter
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve come to realise that when it comes to readathons I get more books read if they’re YA (and often YA contemporary) or short, so I have a mix of both on my TBR.

Augustown is just over 200 pages while Under the Tripoli Sky is barely 100 pages. Both of these books would be for my Read the World Project, Jamaica and Libya respectively. I’m loving the recent boom in YA books about girls standing up for themselves against sexism so The Exact Opposite of Okay looks like just my sort of thing. I read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart a few years ago and sped through it so hopefully Genuine Fraud will be the same.

There’s my TBR for the Bout of Books readathon, though I don’t think I’ll read all the books mentioned, if I finish three of them I’ll be really happy. Are you taking part in this round of the readathon? Or have you taken part in Bout of Books before? Do you have any readathon tips? I know I’m always far too optimistic and often end up winging it!