My Brilliant Friend By Elena Ferrante: Review and Summary

My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend – A Modern Masterpiece of Literature

My Brilliant Friend is a novel written by the acclaimed Italian author Elena Ferrante. The novel, which was first published in 2011, tells the story of two young girls growing up in Naples, Italy, in the 1950s. The main characters, Elena Greco and Raffaella Cerullo, come from very different backgrounds but form a deep and complex friendship that lasted more than 60 years.

The novel is the first part of a four-book series collectively known as the Neapolitan Novels. The series has been widely regarded as a modern masterpiece of literature, and has been translated into over 40 languages. Ferrante’s compelling writing style and her intimate portrayal of life in Naples have earned her a loyal following of readers all over the world.

Main Themes and Ideas

One of the most prominent themes in My Brilliant Friend is the idea of female friendship. Through Elena and Raffaella’s deep and complex relationship, Ferrante explores the bonds that can exist between women and the ways in which they can support and challenge each other. The novel also delves into issues of class and social mobility, as Elena and Raffaella come from very different backgrounds.

Another central theme in the book is the idea of education and self-improvement. Elena, the narrator of the story, is a gifted student who strives to better herself through her education. Raffaella, on the other hand, is forced to drop out of school at a young age and faces a difficult and uncertain future. Through their experiences, Ferrante shines a light on the challenges faced by women in mid-twentieth century Italy and the power of education to transform lives.

Critical Evaluation of the Writing Style

Ferrante’s writing style in My Brilliant Friend is notable for its raw, honest and vivid descriptions of life in Naples. The author has a remarkable ability to create a sense of place and convey the mood and atmosphere of the novel’s various settings. Her prose is also marked by a certain urgency and intensity, which makes the book difficult to put down once you start reading.

However, some readers may find the novel’s complex cast of characters and dense web of relationships somewhat challenging to follow. Additionally, the novel is written in a very distinctive Italian style that may not be to everyone’s taste. It’s important to note that Ferrante’s works have been translated into many different languages, and readers may have different experiences depending on the specific translation they are reading.

Strengths and Weaknesses, and Comparison with other Works

One of the main strengths of My Brilliant Friend is its powerful and evocative portrayal of female friendship. The novel chronicles the ups and downs of Elena and Raffaella’s relationship over a period of several decades, and the depth and complexity of their bond is truly remarkable. The book also offers a fascinating glimpse into the social and cultural norms of post-war Italy, which can be both enlightening and thought-provoking for modern readers.

However, some readers may find the novel’s slow pace and lack of action somewhat frustrating. Although the novel covers a wide range of events and emotions, it is not a traditional plot-driven story. Additionally, the novel’s complex web of relationships and characters may be overwhelming for readers who prefer more straightforward narratives.

My Brilliant Friend has been widely compared to other works of modern literature, such as Karl Ove KnausgÃ¥rd’s My Struggle series and Ferrante’s own other works. However, it is difficult to truly compare the novel to other works, as its unique style and perspective make it stand out in its own right.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Overall, My Brilliant Friend is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that is not to be missed. Ferrante’s keen eye for detail and her evocative writing style make this book a true masterpiece of modern literature. While the novel may not be for everyone, those who are interested in exploring the complexities of female friendship or the social and cultural norms of post-war Italy will find much to enjoy here.

If you’re new to Ferrante’s work, this book is an excellent place to start. And if you’re already a fan, My Brilliant Friend is a must-read that provides both insight and entertainment. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy today!


What inspired Elena Ferrante to write My Brilliant Friend?

According to interviews with Ferrante, the novel was inspired by her own experiences growing up in Naples in the 1950s. Ferrante has also noted that the novel is loosely based on her own childhood friendship with a girl named Marisa.

Is My Brilliant Friend the first book in a series?

Yes, My Brilliant Friend is the first book in a four-book series known as the Neapolitan Novels. The other books in the series are The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.

Are there any movie or TV adaptations of My Brilliant Friend?

Yes, there is a TV adaptation of My Brilliant Friend that was produced by the HBO network. The first season aired in 2018, and the second season followed in 2020. The series has been widely praised for its faithful adaptation of Ferrante’s novel and its powerful performances by the cast.

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