Book Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

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Title: My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels #1)

Author: Elena Ferrante

Published by: Europa Editions

Publishing Date: September 25th 2012

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult, Italian Literature

Pages: 331

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

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My Briallian Friend is a quite and personal book, it focuses almost entirely in these two girls, Elena and Lila, that are incredible dislikeable at times and really complex characters throughout the entire book. This is their story, from early childhood until their teenage years, and it doesn’t have much more plot than that, which can make the story slow at times. Nonetheless, reading about this two very different girls and the complicated friendship they have is never boring because the story is impeccably written with delicacy and intelligence and that makes the expirience of reading it delightful.

There are two topics that are especially interesting throughout the book: the first one is the relationship between poverty, education and violence and the second one is this exploration of living with the enemy in your neighborhood. My  Brilliant Friend does a very good job of showing the cycle of poverty: the way doors close for people without economic resourses; how even a brilliant girl sees her education interrumpted because of material circunstances; how gender plays a huge role in who gets to do what; what education can mean to the life of a person; how it can pull him or her out of that cycle of poverty; and ultimately, how violence becomes interwined in the life of people in conditions of extreme poverty and little education.

You could say this is a book plaged with tension and one of the main reasons is that it portraits the time after WWII, when people that were in opposite sides during the war had to live together. The book shows how the girls -even when they don’t really understand what is happening- pick up on the tension that is suffocating their neighboorhood. Most people relate wars with a larger scale, countries fighting each other or different sides fighting in a civil war, and even when thinking about the people involve in war it’s about what they go through during the war and not so much what happens after. In that sense, it is really interesting to read about war enemies in such a small scale, the setting is a poor neighborhood in Napoles, and realizing that when everything is said and done this people that supported different sides still have to live together and the fact that the war is over doesn’t mean they stop beliving in whatever they believed in or stop hating whoever they hated before, but they are forced to cohabitate and poverty plays an important role in that.

Finally, My Brilliant Friend tells the story of two complex girls, that have a complicated friendship and  live surrounded with violence and old tensions, while making a poignant commentary on the relationship between poverty and education.

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read this book ? Did you like it? Are you planning on reading it? 

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January 2017 Wrap Up – Dumbledore’s Army Readathon & #DiverseAThon

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This month I participated in two readathon revolving around diversity. I did ok in one of them, but completely failed in the other. At the end, I read seven books in January, six of them for the readathons and another one for a buddy read. The reviews for all of these books will be posted in the next few of weeks.

1. Dumbledore’s Army Readathon

At the beginning of the month I participated in the #DAReadathon and I had so much fun chatting with people on twitter about the books I was reading. There were 7 promps, so that means participants were supposted to read 7 books. I didn’t accomplish that goal, I read 5 books and started the 6th. This readathon took place in my last days of uni break and I thought that I was gonna have a lot of time to read, but I ended up going on several trips and that took a lot of my reading time. Nonetheless, I felt I did a good job.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock  (4,3 stars)

A beautifully written memoir of a trans woman of color. This book is captivating, honest and touching. Here’s my review.

When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez (4,4 stars)

This book  portraits depression through the stories of two main characters that experience this mental illness in very different ways and that it’s definitely the thing that makes this book incredibly important, as well as unique. Something else that I really like about it is all the Emily Dickinson poems and references; they add so much to the story. Here’s the full review.

Delicious Temptation by Sabrina Sol (3 stars)

The main characters of this book are latinxs and the story revolves around traditional latinx food and desserts. Even if that sounds amazing, the characters end up being really two dimentional and that means that, if we take the traditional food and random spanish phrases, it was hard to tell they are latinxs at all. Here’s the full review.

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (3 stars)

I was expecting this book to be funnier and I was expecting it to be more about Mindy’s job in The Office and about her writing. Even if this books talks about those things, it also spends way to much time in Mindy’s childhood and teen years, and I didn’t find that part entertaining at all.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (4 stars)

This book is intense and nerve wracking; as a reader you spend the entire time worried about the characters. The plot isn’t entirely unique, but the setting makes it feel refreshing and intresting. The main characters are captivating and the villains are intriguing. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

2.#DiverseAThon

I completely failed at DiverseAThon, I was hoping to read 3 book and ended up only reading one. Also, I didn’t have time to participate in the twitter chats.  But the one book I read was really good, so at the end, it wasn’t so bad.

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Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (4 stars)

A cute book with a biracial, bisexual main character, a trans character, an interesting post-apocalyptic world, amazing conversations about gender and sexual orientation,  villains that are not so evil and heroes that are not so good. If that sounds like sometime you would like, I totally recommend it.

3. Buddy Read as part of Read with Marines 

A booktuber I think you may know called Marines hosts really casual  buddy reads and for January she choose a book I was really excited to read and that’s why I decided to join in.

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My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (4,2 stars)

An amazing book about a complicated friendship, that deals with a variety of topics from poverty and the connection it has with education to war enemies living in the same neighborhood after the war ends. A complex story, with a lot characters, written in a beautiful yet simple way. Here’s the full review.

Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? What did you read this month?