Tag Archives: elena ferrante

my brilliant friend by elena ferrante

mybrilliantfriendI gobbled My Brilliant Friend down in a very short amount of time in order to finish it for a book club discussion only for the discussion to be moved, leading me to wish I had spent a bit more time digesting this book as I read.

Since I’ve been spending most of my reading time diving into an ebook version of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, I decided to download an audiobook version of My Brilliant Friend. Unfortunately, a digital audiobook download was unavailable from my library during my time crunch to complete the book, so I signed up for Downpour. Downpour is an audiobook subscription service that allows you to download one audiobook title per month for $12.99. After you purchase the title, it’s yours and won’t disappear from your library after you cancel your subscription like another popular audiobook service *cough*. I really, really liked the service and am looking forward to continuing to get a new audiobook download each month.

Unfortunately, I don’t think an audiobook version of My Brilliant Friend really did the story justice. I frequently found myself zoning out while listening to this book and felt very detached from the story. If you’re going to read this book, definitely opt for a print or ebook version. This book is the debut in the Neapolitan Novels series by the mysterious Elena Ferrante. Ferrante is the pen name of a mysterious Italian author who only communicates with her publisher and the press through letters because she believes that truly great writing doesn’t need promotion of a likable author. The aura of the mysterious author definitely contributes to the allure of the book as I was left wondering how autobiographical the tale was, which I may never learn the answer to.

The novel follows the lives of two girls, Elena (last name Greco, not Ferrante) and Lila, as they  grow up in the outskirts of Naples, Italy in the 1950s. The story begins when the girls are in primary school and follows their friendship and individual lives and ends with one of the girls getting married in her late teens. The story is told from the perspective of Elena, a girl who is enamored with her brilliant friend and is constantly balancing her jealousy of and affection for Lila. This balance felt very true to female friendship that I experienced as I came to age — wanting to possess certain aspects of your friend’s personality or lifestyle, while also feeling lucky to be surrounded by great friends. The tale of their friendship is the central point of this story that holds all of the other details together and makes me wonder what will happen in the subsequent novels after one of the two friends becomes married.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when the lives of our two central characters begins to dovetail as Elena is allowed to continue her education, while Lila, despite being incredibly smart and showing desire to continue her education, is regulated to working in the family business. The inequality in access to education and opportunities heavily influences each of their subsequent decisions and life paths.

There is a lot more going on in this story aside from brilliantly detailing a female friendship and their access to education, but I found myself zoning out when the audiobook delved into the other aspects of Lila and Elena’s world. There is a lot of violence surrounding the neighborhood where the girls grow up and there are hints of ties to the Italian mafia sprinkled in, but because of my zoning out and my lack of familiarity with Italian history during this period, I didn’t fully soak up these subtle references.

Overall, read this book if you have some time to fully imagine the world surrounding these characters and absorbing the details of their friendship. However, the book is definitely not the beach read that the American cover and surrounding press seems to be marketing it as.

Publication Date of English Translation: 25 September 2012 by Europa Editions. Format: Audiobook.

Author: Elena Ferrante web

Narrator: Hillary Huber web/@twitter

#findabook and autumn round up!

Long time, no post! As I mentioned in my last post, I took a much needed hiatus to focus on studying for a major test. Now that I’ve taken the test, I need to shift my energy to writing applications related to that test which means I still don’t have as much time as usual to be reading books and reviewing them for my blog.

Amy's #findabook

When I’m not burrowing my head in application land, I’ve begun circulating a side project that I developed for the blog called #findabook. In order to eliminate clutter from my life, I’ve decided to put books I own in public places to share them with strangers and friends. In order to kickstart the project, I’ve sent a few books to friends via mail (fellow book blogger Amy was sent Bright Lines; my pal Shelly in D.C. was sent Fun Home; my longtime friend Lisa in Austin was sent Brain on Fire; my coworker Loulou was given Americanah) and left a few in public spaces (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeGone Girl, and The Martian). If you find one, please leave a comment and let me know what city you found it in and your name and be sure to pass along the book to someone new when you’re done! Speaking of projects, I’ll also be launching a podcast soon, but more on that later…

I’m still roughly on track to finish 52 books in 52 weeks, aka the motivation that led me to create this blog initially, and I hope the coziness of fall encourages me to spend some more time reading. I’m currently toggling between two books for two different book clubs. I’m listening to My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and should have a review of that up in November and am reading 200 pages a month of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace for a book club I’m leading. I’m thinking that I’ll post reviews of each of the 200 page chunks since it’s such an undertaking! Have any of you finished or attempted to finish this book before? I’m finding that the shared responsibility of tackling it for my book club has really motivated me through it. Feel free to join me digitally by completing the first chunk by early November or reading the first 400 pages by early December! If you’re joining, let me know and we can have an online discussion about what we’ve read so far!

During my absence, I was also tagged in some fun book blog related things (thank you Amy, Maryan, Chloe, and Alyssa!) that I’ll get to when I’ve officially left application land. I hope you’ve all had swell falls and have been able to cozy up to more books than I’ve had the chance to!