Friday, September 18, 2020

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up My Brilliant Friend a few years ago, read a chapter or two, then dropped it again. It just didn't spark my interest.

Cut to last year when I decided to watch season one of the HBO series based on the book. It was dark, grim, hard for me to watch at times. But the friendship between the two girls was mesmerizing, and I hung in there. By the time I'd finished binging the series, I was in love.

I still didn't go back to the book, though. The memory of bored disinterest kept me away. Season two aired, and again I was enthralled. Finally, I recently decided to pick the book up again on the chance I'd merely tried it at the wrong time, when the mood wasn't right, when the muse of all printed things was pointing another direction at the moment. And this time, I loved the story, the writing. Everything.

My Brilliant Friend tells the story of an intense, all-consuming friendship that starts in childhood for two young girls. They push and pull the direction of one another's lives, for both better and worse. They compete, love and torment each other. It's all terribly unhealthy I'm sure, but riveting.

This passage reveals just a piece of that intensity, that influence:

"I missed only Lila, Lila who didn’t answer my letters. I was afraid of what was happening to her, good or bad, in my absence. It was an old fear, a fear that has never left me: the fear that, in losing pieces of her life, mine lost intensity and importance."

The HBO series was fantastic, and I highly recommend checking that out as well. Even still, the book manages to be better (isn't that usually the way?). The two complement each other. The HBO series lured me in, and the book filled me in more, made some things about the relationship and the characters clearer. This novel would be out-of-sight for book club discussions, and the series would be a great watch with a friend (even if you have to view separately and catch up over Zoom later to discuss).

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