Today we discussed the first book of the Neopolitan series by Elena Ferrante ” My Brilliant Friend”. Interestingly a few of our members read it believing it was a stand alone novel and were thus a bit disappointed with the ‘ending’.  Once it was viewed as the beginning of a much longer story, rather than the end of an unfulfilled one, we had quite a rigorous discussion.

There was a mixed reaction toward the main characters of Elena and Lila with some seeing the power in their friendship lying with Lila’s more rustic and crude character.  We all agreed that the girls seemed to push each other to achieve academically although this came much more naturally (as did beauty)  to Lila.

The tone of the book was extremely passionate, albeit filled with poverty and violence. This prompted a discussion about whether this is a national characteristic of Italians, much as Australians are considered laid-back.

One thing we did notice was that it could be difficult to keep track of the myriad of characters, many of whom had very similar sounding names. However, the book did contain a list of characters in the first pages, which I certainly found myself referring to constantly!

What became clear in the novel was the significant way poverty defined the girls and their futures – something that I am sure will develop further in future books.

Interestingly we were pretty much split into half in the like/dislike camps with a total score of 17.5/30. At least 3 of our members were keen to continue reading the series.

As an aside the four books are soon to become a 32 part HBO series. Now that’s something for the fans to be excited about!

Tune in next month as we get together to discuss Colleen McCullough’s sweeping saga “Bittersweet”.



This is the story of two sets of twins, Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty, who struggle against all the restraints, prohibitions, laws and prejudices of 1920s Australia. Only the submissive yet steely Grace burns for marriage; the sleekly sophisticated Edda burns to be a doctor, the down-to-earth but courageous Tufts burns never to marry, and the too-beautiful, internally scarred Kitty burns for a love free from male ownership. Turbulent times, terrible torments, but the four magnificent Latimer sisters, each so different, love as women do: with tenderness as well as passion, and with hearts roomy enough to hold their men, their children, their careers and their sisters.