My Brilliant Friend is Brilliant in Every Capacity


With several different covers, My Brilliant Friend can be found in most bookstores in the U.S. and Europe!

With over 200,00 ratings on goodreads, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante has been dominating since 2011. Although initially published in Italian, Ann Goldtsein translated the novel into English, bringing the total number of copies sold worldwide to 11 million! 

  The story follows bestfriends Raffaella Cerullo and Elena Greco growing up in Naples, Italy in the 1950s. We learn that in their adult years Raffaella (Lila) goes missing and Elena recounts their childhood spent together. 

  The novel opens with Lila and Elena losing a doll in the notorious Don Achilles home and their quest to retrieve the lost toy. Chapter one begins with “my friendship with Lila began the day we decided to go up the dark stairs that led, step after step, flight after flight, to the door of Don Achille’s apartment”. 

  From their very first on page appearance, the love between the two girls is palpable . A large portion of the first novel (My Brilliant Friend is the first novel of the Neapolitan Quartet) is spent in school, where both Lila and Elena are at the top of their class. 

  There is an extensive cast, from the students attending school with the girls, to adults living in their neighborhood, and their extensive families. While it is difficult during the first novel to remember every character and their motivations, an index is provided at the beginning  of the book. The immense characters all have fleshed out stories and personalities, making the neighborhood in which they reside feel authentic.

  The book is told entirely from Elena’s perspective, putting her admiration of Lila in the spotlight. When thinking of her, Elena writes “She took the facts and in a natural way charged them with tension; she intensified reality as she reduced it to words, she injected it with energy”. The novel makes the reader appreciate female friendships in a way not often portrayed in the media today. 

  Though there are countless sweet moments between the girls throughout the novel, it is not without the occasional fight. Yet, all the fights read as realistic; they aren’t simply added for the dramatics. Later in their schooling career, Lila must drop out in order to work for her family, and the jealousy towards Elena continuing her studies lingers over their friendship for the remainder of the novel.  

  My favorite aspect of the novel has to be the title itself. It is assumed that “my brilliant friend” is Elena referring to Lila, but I was shocked when Lila said “you’re my brilliant friend, you have to be the best of all, boys and girls”. The ending was great and shocking and heartbreaking, setting up the next novel in the quartet perfectly. 

  While many authors aren’t able to achieve this, I have found that the second novel was even better than the first! My Brilliant Friend is a stunning novel, and my only complaint is not reading it sooner.