My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is a coming-of-age novel about two friends, Elena and Lila. The girls are growing up in Naples during the late 50s in a poor community and the novel overflows with a remarkable cast of characters.
The novel is told by Elena whose relationship with Lila is passionate and complicated. They are both very intelligent, often pushing one another to strive for more, to be better than the other. Poverty holds one of the girls back from furthering her education and, as their lives digress, their lifestyles gradually change. In spite of this, the two girls find an anchor in one another and are really their best with one another.
The other people who make up the community—the neighbors, the other children in the school, the teachers—all add flavor to the central story. And there are a lot of secondary characters. In the beginning of the book is a list of all of the characters, but I never had to refer to it because each stood out on his or her own. And I want to know more about them. The conclusion was so good it made me gasp. It also left me gasping for more. This is the first in a trilogy of novels. I am adding the next two books to my birthday wish list. I won’t hold my breath but it would be nice to have the next two books because I do want to know what happens to Elena and Lila next.