My Brilliant Friend

6 years ago by

My Brilliant Friend

The other day, I walked into a bookstore and skimmed over the recommended reads. On one book was a note from the store owner that read, “If you give this book a chance, it will change your life.” It seemed like a huge claim for a book I’ve never heard of (I’m a big reader), so of course I had to buy it and read it immediately.

I blazed through the book, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, in a few days. Couldn’t — wouldn’t — put it down. I barely touched Instagram, I gave up completely on my favorite app Luminosity. I was on vacation, but those days were a blur of sand and Ferrante’s Italian tale of poverty, love and fear. As soon as I got back to New York, I ordered the second book (it’s a trilogy). And now the third is on its way. 

I love discovering new authors and I have to admit the bookstore owner was right — Ferrante is brilliant. Have you read any of her books? Any other books you’ve read recently that you would recommend?


Add yours
  • In Italy, where I live, Elena Ferrante is a real mystery. She’s a best selling author but nobody has ever met her. A lot of persons in the editing industry and newspapers say that another author hides behind this name, and that this could be a Man. It’s so 19th century :)

  • This story is so inspiring and mysterious… Thanks for sharing!
    XOX, Gap.

  • I also live in Italy, and the speculation that she could be a man drives me crazy! A writer for the Italian leftist Democratic Party newspaper seems to have started the rumor in 2006 based on “computer analysis,” and it’s taken hold because of some weird underlying assumption that a woman couldn’t possibly be this savvy. The man they named is a journalist whereas Ferrante is a professor and classicist. I’ve also never met an Italian man who really understood the subtle pressures of being a woman in this culture.

  • Dear JB, I agree with you on the subtle way society here tends to push women away from key positions, and not only, from an actual position they would definitely own as citizen, some days I am rolling my eyes at some words and I am French – so not so. I have been living here for only 8 years and it’s sometimes hard for me to understand all the socio-economical implications in a discussion, such as the Elena Ferrante one. To me it was only fascinating, the way journalists treat her success. I’m sorry I didn’t read the debate with the eye of a woman living in the Italian society so I’m happy I have read your comment!

  • I haven’t heard of her but would love to! One of the best books I’ve ever read is Junot Diaz’s The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao. Really worth reading!


  • I haven’t been reading as many books for the last decade of so but am motivated now to pick this up :)

  • Barbara April, 21 2015, 7:39 / Reply

    It’s not a trilogy, it’s four books. The last one is just not translated yet.
    I absolutely love Elena Ferrante’s books,
    The best book I’ve read recently was the Matisse bio by Hilary Spurling, so vivid. I read it in Two volumes, but it also exists condensed in a single book.

  • I love discovering new books too. When i was younger, i read a lot of fiction and recommendations that came my way. Now, i cant seem to dedicate my time to it. I only read philosophy, auto bios and other non fiction books.

  • I read mostly philosophy books too, and some about history or theology (all religions). To read a fictional book, it has to be a very very good one.

    Currently, I am reading Wilhelm Meister’Apprenticeship by Goethe! A very very good book!!!


  • Garance: I just downloaded this book on your recommendation. It is fantastic! Last week I read All the Light We Cannot See…you must read it! And I agree with the other comment (Oscar Wao!). xo

  • Caroline April, 21 2015, 9:53 / Reply

    I’m currently reading Ferrante and loving her writing. Try any of these, all beautifully written stories with great characters and sense of place: The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz Bart, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson.

  • What a lovely, romantic story. From the handwritten note from the bookshop to the mystery behind the author’s true identity. I’m hooked already.

    Lindsay | http://www.ReadTheThread.com

  • I have read everything she has done and I can’t recommend enough that you read everything else she has written! Did you know she is coming out with fourth in the Elena/Lina story? Can’t wait to read it!

  • Prudence Yeo April, 22 2015, 1:13 / Reply

    I have never heard of this book or the author before but now I am quite curious to find out more! Thanks for sharing!


  • I highly recommend the last trilogy written by Ken Follet! Amazing! Xxx

  • Thanks for the idea! There’s another italian author I love, Margareth Mazzantini, especially her bestseller “Don’t move” (non ti muovere), but I’m also very into Alice Munro for some years now. I’ve also recently discovered the austrian author Eva Menasse, and I really like the autobiographic novels of Benoîte Groult.. could go on and on, but there you already have something to live with and love, and to understand so many things about youself, perception, the others..

  • Can’t wait to discover Ferrante’s books now!
    In my recent readings are only French books, each really different but all worth reading:
    L’herbe des nuits – Patrick Modiano
    La mort heureuse – Albert Camus
    Tour cela n’a rien à voir avec moi – Monica Sabolo

    Would be great to hear more about what everyone’s reading! :)

  • There is nothing better than getting lost in a book – and I haven’t felt so lost in a long time! I’m almost nervous about picking this one up – I have too much to do! But I am so curious – thank you for the recommendation xo

    Warm Regards,

  • giuliana ciani April, 22 2015, 8:49 / Reply

    c’est une tetralogie, le dernier volume en italien s’appel “Storia della bambina perduta”. J’aime beacoup Elena Ferrante!

  • Merci pour le conseil, je cherche souvent de nouveaux livres, j´aime BEAUCOUP lire, je les achète tout de suite…

  • For those fans of mystery, anything by Jo Nesbo but especially his stand alone book (his best in my opinion) The Son was super fantastic. I could not put it down during my last vacation. Also in the past year I have discovered Jussi Adler-Olsen, another Nordic writer whose books you can not put down.

  • If you like to read a beautifully re-told old story try Zorro by Isabel Allende. (My recent discovery) Great stuff, beautiful language and amazing book! Isabel Allende is fabulous South American autor who tels her stories like no other. If you didn’t read anything of her’s yet you definitively should try. One of her first books ,”The house of the spirits” its a classic now, but other more recent are really good too.
    Happy reading!

  • I will be adding this to my list of books to read! I read Elena Ferrante’s “The Days of Abandonment” a couple of months ago and found it to be captivating and intense, and in many ways very relatable. I highly recommend it:)

  • I have read this book and one other by Ms. Ferrante. This summer I will definitely be reading the rest of her books. Of course I will start with the rest of the trilogy . . . . Cheers!


  • Clotilde April, 22 2015, 1:21 / Reply

    Never heard of Elena Ferrante. Is it by pure chance that her name sounds so much like that of a major italian writer, Elsa Morante ?

  • Je viens de finir ce roman, il est absolument prodigieux ! Dommage que seul le premier tome soit traduit en français , je sens que je vais commander les suivants en anglais tant j’ai hâte de lire la suite !

  • Clotilde–Her pen name is homage to Morante.

  • Clotilde April, 23 2015, 12:25

    Thank you for the explanation RN.
    I don’t really like it though, I find it’s pretentious, not fair to Morante, + she may even commercially benefit from the confusion between the two names !

  • I’m very happy to read a post about books. It’s too rare on this blog! So thank you for the advice, i am going to put it in my holidays “book-list”.

  • Ooh. I’ve been looking for a great novel to read. I’m definitely going to check this book out! If I had heard of it earlier, I would have suggested it for our next book club meeting.

  • Gretchen April, 22 2015, 6:32 / Reply

    I love posts about addictive books. I am at work right now (inside a public library) and putting reserves on all these recommendations. Thank you! I just read the Dark Soul Trilogy by Deborah Harkness and had to tear myself away to do things like sleep and go to the bathroom. Otherwise I highly recommend Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie especially the audio book.

  • Catherine April, 23 2015, 4:50 / Reply

    A wonderful book is “Le Coeur N’as Pas de Rides,” by Marina Rozenman (my own brilliant friend). It’s a collection of true vignettes of couples who found love late in life–after their 70s. It’s touching, funny and sad. It’s in French, but an easy read for an anglophone whose French isn’t so great.

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