Dapto Tuesday Book Club

My Brilliant Friend Elena Ferrante

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.

If scoring a book is any indication of its popularity, this month’s novel by Italian writer Elena Ferrante comes in a very poor last with our group.

Only two of us found the story of Lena and Lila transfixing, with vivid images and a compelling story that begs you to read on.

The majority of the group found little to interest them and much to annoy. They thought it repetitive, long and drawn out and felt the translation stunted and difficult to read.

How can a novel evoke such differing views? It is always interesting discovering what each person gets (or doesn’t get) from a book. A particular writing style, theme or plot can be all consuming to some, whereas another reader gleams little or nothing of interest from the same content.

Thankfully we have learnt that this exact circumstance can lead to a very interesting discussion … which we had this month. We covered the social structure of small, impoverished communities, family violence, friendship and rivalry, language and some of the very complex ideas played out within Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels.

Some of us felt it was written more for an Italian audience and that the translation may not have done it justice. But those of us who are fans found everything to like in this novel … from the highly volatile atmosphere of poverty ridden Naples streets to the inner sanctum of two young girls discovering their place in a male dominated world of sex and violence.

Considering the global popularity of these novels, it now begs the question, will there be a movie? Or better yet, a series!

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