My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
What I drank prior: beer. Plenty of beer. Ended up doing a brewery tour with a friend in Baltimore. I took a train in so I got to trybplenty od things!
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. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.
Drunk Overview: childhood friendship of two girls in an odd Italian town in the 1950s? Honestly, I couldnt quite tell what time it was set in. But this followed a frienship from vhildhood through adolescence with all the cruelties and misapprehensions that go with it. Focuses really deeply on the minor evemts and day to day.
Characters: Elena, the main character, is best friends with Lila. Lila seems to be one of those electric characters who endlessly and easily attracts people. Theres a whole other cast of family and friends but its clear that to Elena, Lila is the only one who matters. The town however is full of characters who pop up again and again. There are number of neighborhood boys that start out as villains and transition to love interests. A host of girls that start out as childhood playmates or rivals and turn into acquaintances. But its clear at all times that there remains a bit of an obsession between Elena and Lila. At the beginning of the book it seems like the obsession only goes the one way but it becomes clear that both of these women rely heavily on each other and seem to be in a constant battle tonone up each other even if thats not they way they see it.
Plot: I think Ive covered this a little bit. This book focuses a lot on the day to day with a build up in emotion and slights and praises and more. Its broken up into what people can and cannot do. Elena continues school past elementary and Lila cannot. Lila can work at her fathers store and Elena cannot. Lila gets marriage proposals and Elena does not. They judge their lives based off of each other and theres no real way to win.
Writing Style: slow. Im going to admit, the amount of detail at the beginning of this book could be a little hard to deal with. This book really focuses on the minutiae. Especially as young children, minor things can have an endless impact. And this book revels in those minor impacts. (The ending of this book definitely inspired me to say out loud “Oh Shit!” Because while this book is really detail oriented its because those details can matter. The characters are built from the ground up ao when thise impacts happen you can aee where the fallout will be.
World building: i could jever quite tell when this was set. The book tells you what the year is, but even as a remote town some of the way people act is hard to believe. Then again, I grew up in the shadow od DC so Im sute some people would have a hard time understanding that reality. This book very much has set its place in time and feels concrete. I just had trouble putting it in a timeline.
What to pair it with: red wine. Something really bold that you can think about.
Rating: 3.5/5 Shots. Really good book, just not quite my cup of tea.