Review: ‘My Brilliant Friend’ by Elena Ferrante [2012]

My brilliant friend

‘My Brilliant Friend’ is an elegantly written and immersive bildungsroman, featuring in-depth studies of character and development. It follows the childhood and friendship of Elena and Lila, growing up in the slums of Naples. In particular it tells of Elena’s struggle to forge a defined identity, surrounded by personalities stronger than her own. Elena has very little self-confidence or conviction in her own abilities and I felt sorry for her, but a lot of the time I also wanted to shake some sense into her. Get a grip, girl.

 

By contrast Lila is fiery, brilliant and intense; a living and breathing supernova. Although I found the novel a little slow at times it was my intense curiosity to know about Lila that spurred me on. I was also riveted by the power-struggles and the journey undertaken by all of the young people within the novel, not just Elena and Lila. Enzo, Stefano, Rino, Nino, Carmen… All of them were fascinating in their own right and I loved seeing them interact – though the suggestion that they were all following the same paths as their parents and grandparents before them was bittersweet. It is of course heart-breaking to see Lila’s genius wasted, but it is raw and honest; exactly what would have and did so often happen. Coinciding with this was Elena’s jealousy. As soon as she heard that Lila was to be married before her, all of her pride and ambition in school vanished and suddenly her only wish is to ‘catch up’ with her friend and be married herself. This mentality is disturbing and, unfortunately, not uncommon.

The class divide is another discourse within the novel that I particularly enjoyed reading. It is also, evidently, a painful subject for many of the novel’s characters. They all dream of wealth and feel bitterly jealous of their middle-class contemporaries, an interesting dynamic that builds in tension as the plot progresses. The scenes wherein the groups visit the centre of Naples are some of the best in the novel.

There is no big ‘event’, plot twist or mystery in ‘My Brilliant Friend’. It really is telling the honest story of their childhood. In doing so, however, I felt that the plot did become a little repetitive. At times it seems to go around in circles as Elena fixates on her competition with Lila, school, boys, men…It loops around a few times and grows a little stale. I appreciated and adored the graceful prose, I enjoyed the exploration of female experience in the slums of Naples, and these things saved the novel from becoming too boring. It was frustrating, though, to start with Lila and Elena as adults and not reach an explanation by the end of the novel. We are barely a third of the way through the story, as though the narrator insists on writing down every little, sometimes pointless, detail.

I am happy to say that these aspects have not put me off the novel and I still view it as a beautiful piece of writing: sometimes, that is what you have to appreciate and respect, whether the story is to your taste or no. I also still wish to know what happens to Lila, so perhaps Ferrante’s clever trick pays off as I will probably pick up the second and third novels if I come across them in future.

The Liebster Award 2016!

Thanks to Filmandnuance.wordpress.com for nominating me for the Liebster Award! This is SO COOL and the first time I’ve been tagged in anything, so thank you very much J J J Definitely check out this swanky blog: http://www.Filmandnuance.wordpress.com

liebster

So let’s go with the questions! Unfortunately with my new internship starting I am very short on time, so I won’t be able to come up with any more questions: I just invite everyone to answer these ones!

  1. What is your favourite movie in your least favourite genre. And why?

Well, damn, don’t ease us in! This question is really, really hard. I am not a film person at all, so I have no idea what any of my favourite movies are, let alone what genres I like or dislike. I guess for the sake of an answer, I don’t really like spy movies. I like action movies in the broader sense, but those James Bond type films don’t really do it for me. I liked Skyfall a lot though.

2. If you had to favour a certain style (for directing a film,writing a book or any other art form of your choice), would you prefer a no-frills and direct approach, or an artistic and ambiguous one. Why?

I like a direct approach. Ambiguous is beautiful sometimes, but when it gets to the ambiguity level of, say, Jacob’s Room (Virginia Woolf) I just get a massive headache. Sometimes blunt, honest and shocking prose is the most effective.

3. Name a movie you can watch any day.

Easy. Stepbrothers! I can only apologise if this isn’t as sophisticated as you were hoping for, but I absolutely love Stepbrothers. It’s such easy watching, it’s funny and it doesn’t require too much concentration, which is perfect for me because I only really watch films as background entertainment while I’m doing something else.

4. If you could keep an object that you had previously but by now either lost it,sold,misplaced,had it stolen or destroyed, what would it be?

Probably all my old toys and videogames. They’d be worth a killing now.

5Pick an era to live in.

The 80s, please! I want to join that party.

6. The best film you’ve seen this year and an unreleased 2016 film that you think might beat it.

Another film question that I have no idea how to answer. I’ve seen a couple of good horror films this year…I can’t remember much else. Certainly not details. I saw The David Brent film recently though and it was pretty funny. And I have no idea what films are due to be released… When is The Incredibles II due? I’m so excited for that one.

7. Name a memory you would keep till your death.

Hopefully I’ll keep several of them! A lot of memories from my childhood, and my time at University – I met all my best friends there.

8. Ice-cream or popsicles?

My absolute favourite is a sorbet…What category does that fall into? Ice-cream? Half and half?

8. Where do you stand on the Harambe case?

It’s a difficult one. I don’t think Harambe should have been killed until every other option was ruled out; that was a mistake. I do think that some people have taken their anger too far, though. Personally I couldn’t tell from the video that Harambe was trying to protect anyone, or hurt anyone. It certainly looked as though the poor child was being dragged along and you never know how a wild animal is going to act. If it felt threatened by all the screaming and commotion something easily could have gone wrong. But they should have tried everything else before shooting.

 9. Favourite type of music? And what does it mean to you?

I have very wide-ranging taste. I love musical theatre and all the memories I have of theatre shows, I love acoustic covers and how they showcase an artist’s unique talent. At the moment, I also adore house and EDM because I have had so many magical nights with my friends, and only have to hear the intro to certain songs to start smiling.

10. How do you cool off after being upset/angry?

I just go and sit in my bedroom, alone, until I’ve calmed down. Usually I have some TV show on in the background to distract me but generally I am just in my own thoughts.

 

Thanks guys! Love ya – Fiona