Five reasons why you should read the whole series of Elena Ferrante books (My Brilliant Friendthe Story of a New Namethose Who Leave and Those Who Staythe Story of the Lost Child) and why you will enjoy it.

Elena Ferrante books

My brilliant friend, “L’amica geniale” in the Italian version

Elena Ferrante books are probably the most explosive Italian literature phenomenon of the last years.

The four books of the so called Neapolitan novels fascinated people worldwide. Here’s five reasons why you should read it (if you have not done it yet).

I guess it’s unnecessary to spend too many words about the plot of these four books, which actually form one story of nearly 1.700 pages (or an infinite soap-opera, from detractors’ point of view). I will only say it’s about two main female characters, Elena and Lila, born postwar in a poor neighbourhood of Naples. The books are about their life from childhood to elderly years and about their precarious friendship.

I will also say that I agree with the most widespread readers’ opinion I’ve seen on the web : “My brilliant friend” is incredible. Not that the sequels are disappointing, but they are not as strong as the first one.

So why should you read the whole saga? In my opinion to read the four books you must want to read them. I did it and I’m not disappointed.

Here’s five reasons why you should dive without hesitation into Elena and Lila’s lives.

1. To remind ourselves that – yes – we did it.

This is for women. Talking about the symmetrical relationship between the two main characters, I doubt that any women does not identify herself with Elena, Lenù, the first person narrator of the story. We all had a brilliant friend. The fearless, the smartest, the one all the guys chased. We had a brilliant friend in every neighbourhood we lived, in every school we went. Compared to hers, our victories just disappeared, she was always one step ahead. I guess we go beyond teen years just when we leave our brilliant friend behind and follow our way. Like Elena does.

2. Because it’s about female friendship, in all possible aspects.

The friendship between Elena and Lila is deep, even symbiotic, but there also envy and competition. They’re not supportive to each other. Of course there’s a man, Nino, the first and biggest reason of division. It’s a rough and pessimistic view of the female friendship. No heroic Thelma and Louise escapes. Interestingly, feminism plays an important role in Elena’s adult life, in the part of the story set in the Seventies. An intriguing contradiction.

3. Because it’s a long story. And you want to finish it anyway. 

The story follows the whole life of the two women and of a legion of other characters. It means the narration goes on even when their life is repetitive and boring. Sometimes it was uneasy for me to go on reading. I prefer books that challenge my imagination, that don’t tell everything. But it happened something very common when you read a good book: I just was fond of the characters; I wanted to know what would have happened to them.

4. Because it’s about the education’s importance.

Elena and Lila understand, in different ways, that they must go to school to free themselves from the boundaries of their families. Elena studies with an iron discipline, she knows it’s the only way to escape from Naples. Lila, who’s not allowed by her family to carry on with school, has a bottomless desire of knowledge. She learns what she can from books, experience, people. Teachers are indeed secondary but essential characters to the story development. Not to forget that girls’ education is still a topical theme worldwide.

5. Because the books, not the writers, are important.

Elena Ferrante is a nickname of an anonymous writer whose real identity is unknown. I’m not even trying to answer the question “who is Elena Ferrante“. Just google her and you will find plenty of hypotheses about who she is. Is the mystery around Ferrante just marketing? Or is she really someone who wants to be left alone? Actually I don’t care about it. We’re living in a world in which the most famous author and the self-published young writer have an active twitter account and must everlastingly promote and promote their books. That’s why I like this Daft Punk-ish writer, she (or he) brings us back the books. As Ferrante herself wrote: after it’s published, the book doesn’t need the author anymore. It just need readers.

If you read Elena Ferrante books alredy, leave a comment to share your view.


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