My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante *****

20 October 2019 |

Reading dates: 28 September – 20 October 2019

Someone showed me the list of The Guardian’s 100 best books of the 21st century. I have a disregard for these things; I never know what is in the charts, know only the bare-essential news and I am only informed to minutiae on whatever happens to interest me at the time (hysteria, seduction, the breath). I rarely follow book advice, only from very few trusted people and on counted occasions. Life is too short to follow someone else’s path. I was, however, surprised on how few I had begun or read from this list. Despite its middlebrow appeal and glaring omissions (where is Houellebecq?), it jotted my memory on previous reading resolutions, pledges I had made to myself. I needed to give crime fiction a short rest anyway. So I got Ferrante’s first Neapolitan novel.

I loved everything about it: the plot, the pace, the characters, the effortless prose, Italy. The novel tells the story of two friends Lenu and Lila, how their friendship started and their journeys through childhood and adolescence, their converging and diverging paths. I liked the representation of that energy that pulls us towards and away from our origins, the considerations of destiny and how it is read in signs, the neighbourhood identity, the meanness and violence of societal living, the trouble when dreams come true. As a writer, I struggle with short chapters, which quickly get out of hand and become unwieldy. I want to say all and I don’t trust the reader enough. Ferrante’s prose is agile, like a graceful leap well-landed. Any book with a character list at the beginning was going to have me anyway, but My Brilliant Friend, also has a pair of shoes at the centre of the plot, as well as the mystery of a disappearance without trace. I am locked onto the next one.

 


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