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Booklist: "A compelling and moving coming-of-age story"

Date: Sep 1 2012

Starred Review:

In a poor, mid-century Italian neighborhood, two girls, Elena and Lila, exhibit remarkable intelligence early in school, at a time when money is scarce and education a privilege, especially for girls. Only Elena is allowed to continue in school, and she devotes herself to her studies, while Lila redirects her own talent toward her family’s business. The girls use each other, sometimes as crutches, sometimes as inspiration, but as they approach adolescence, their friendship is challenged by their changing bodies and attitudes toward the world. Elena increasingly turns toward education as a means of escaping, while Lila looks to her burgeoning beauty as a means of altering the violence and bitterness that threaten their neighborhood. The first book in a prospective trilogy, My Brilliant Friend is a compelling and moving coming-of-age story set in an impoverished neighborhood struggling to come into its own in a rapidly shrinking world. Celebrated Italian author Ferrante’s unflinching and insightful prose, which was rancorous in her novel Days of Abandonment (2010), is captivating and hopeful here and will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment. If comparison is to be found, it may be in fellow Italian Silvia Avallone’s Swimming to Elba (2012) or Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants (2006).

—Cortney Ophoff 

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