Current Affairs, Guest reviews

Reading Elena Ferrante

A couple of short reviews (the first one from me, the latter two from the Book Accumulator) about Elena Ferrante’s novels My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name.

My thoughts:

My Brilliant Friend – 5/10

This has got rave reviews all over everything – in fact it’s the first part of a trilogy, that’s how successful it’s been. Admittedly, I read this more than 2 years ago, on holiday in the south of France, so my memory is probably a little rusty/sun-dappled, but again I kept waiting for this to have its big moment, for Elena to finally step out of Lila’s shadow, and she never did. It just sort of fizzles out. It’s excellently written – beautiful setting, lots of musings on friendship and the vagaries particularly of female teenage friendship – but I had the same problem that I do with much literary fiction. It just ended up nowhere. I had the same problem with Gatsby. Grrr.

The Book Accumulator’s thoughts:

My Brilliant Friend: very readable story of a friendship of two girls growing up in Naples; slow to start but hard to put down. Much more of a memoir than a work of fiction, this book captures the feeling, the customs, the tensions, the class distinctions, the adolescent romances and coming of age in the southern Italian city of the 1960s.

The Story of a New Name: a much less readable story of the friendship, even though the story has very interesting developments as the girls grow from their mid-teens to their early twenties. The author badly needed to edit this, as the book was really tedious and twice as long as it should have been. Despite this, she does depict really well the life and customs and the appalling way relationships between men and women and marriages develop (or don’t) in a particular neighbourhood of Naples in the late 50s and 60s. I will not bother with the last of the trilogy.

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