My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

You guys, I wanted to love this book (despite even the vapid recommendation from Gwyneth freaking Paltrow that came with my copy) and there were certain parts where I’m like “yes, I understand that” and “yes, I lived that” but… I think the most egregious example of my problem with it is that I only understood the drama of the ending when I read the excerpt of the sequel. Why wasn’t the importance of the damn shoes made more clear in this book? If the promise had been explicitly stated in the book, the ending would have had a much different, better impact; as it is, it just felt abrupt. I dunno, maybe I just missed the part where he said it? Then clearly Elena Ferrante is too subtle an author for me.

And maybe it’s the fact that I had my own similar childhood attachment that’s working against me in appreciating this novel. I kept comparing my friendship with B to the heroines’ relationship and wondering which of us was the Lenu or the Lila, in turn. But none of the book was new territory, none of it told me stuff I didn’t already know. None of it had any resonance with the many strands of my emotional history. I also didn’t find any of the events at all startling, tho once I read the excerpt of the second novel, I was, first, greatly impressed at Ms Ferrante’s orchestration of events, but then disappointed that I needed a whole other book to understand the first. I did really like how Lila and her fiance aspired to make something better of their community, which is a large part of why I’m going to read that second book. There’s a great setup here, and I’m hoping the sequel (and I suppose the rest of the series) makes good on it.

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