My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (translated from Italian by Anne Goldstein)

Review by Jenni

An interesting read, not surprisingly lauded by many readers. This novel captures the flawed, unconscious understandings of childhood – the petty and destructive competitions and jealousies which nevertheless drive important decisions, which reveal themselves when time is collapsed by adult eyes, but haunted by the child’s cold, rational but arbitrary actions brought on by the twin pressures of poverty and the urgent need to escape.

The claustrophobic prison cell created by revenge, violence, frustration and powerlessness is captured in the relationship between the two girls, both seeking to rise above their circumstances, both bright and full of potential, challenged by their temperaments and by sheer, dumb luck of birth.

There is an intimacy about the sensibility of the author, a mesmerising quality made of the distilled hope and energy of childhood which is marvellous in its photographic quality. Those clear adult eyes distill the salient moments of choice and resignation, with a shocking understanding that escapes the children in the story (one of whom is the adult narrator) and leaves the reader with a new sense of her own past, it’s savagery and simplicity, and its sacrifices and losses.