Sunday, 23 August 2015

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, and THE STORY OF A NEW NAME and THOSE WHO LEAVE AND THOSE WHO STAY by Elena Ferrante

This is an absolutely fantastic series of three novels following a pair of female friends from their childhood in Naples through to their thirties. They grow up poor, in the 30s in Naples, and their lives take very different paths: one leaves school at 14, marries early, and divorces straight away; the other stays in school and becomes an author. Interestingly though it is the former that is the brilliant one, and her more successful friend feels permanently under her shadow.

It's hard to say what makes these novels so compelling. I didn't note down any particularly clever quotes, I can't remember any brilliant concepts; and yet I inhaled these books in a single week. They're so real that I feel as if I have friends from Naples; as if I can talk knowledgably about gender in pre-war Italy. There's one more book to complete the series, and I can't wait.

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