My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante


Dear Book-Blogging-Corner-of-the-Interwebs,

I respect and trust your opinion on almost #ALLTHEBOOKS* but I feel like you’ve let me down on the Ferrante-front. You know what I’m talking about. You loved it. You promised a sinuous, immersive tale of life in Naples, of violence and fierce love, of female friendship and deep loyalty. You didn’t tell me it would be such a wretched slog. But I pushed through, trusting you.

Granted, it’s not all Ferrante’s** fault – after all, I liked The Lost Daughter very much. Yes, I will cop some blame for this reading-relationship gone awry. My reading was interrupted by the Stella Prize shortlist, however, the fact that I wasn’t busting to pick up My Brilliant Friend again should have spoken volumes. Nonetheless, I plugged away.

You tell me to persevere, that there are great rewards to be had by reading books two and three. And if one more person tells me that “it all comes together in book four” I might get cranky. They may well be fabulous books but it’s hard to get excited when I have some of the best books of 2014 and 2015 sitting in my TBR stack, as well as what is supposedly an exemplary re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, and some guaranteed-great Russo, Yates and Garner classics.

I’m afraid to say that at this stage, Ferrante and I will not be continuing our relationship.

Signing off with a measly 2/5.

*Fifty Shades of Grey was a testing time for all of us
**whoever they are, but that’s another issue

35 responses

  1. I had similar feeling too when I finished My Brilliant Friend about a year ago – it was long, hard slog to finish it and I had no real desire to keep going with the rest of the books. So another 10 months went by and during that period Ferrante Fever well and truly hit and I wondered if I had missed something so I thought maybe I’ll give book 2 a go. 3 weeks later I’d read the final 3 books and I completely understood what all the fuss is about. I really feel like the first book is the weakest and if you are like me I’m not huge on coming of age stories. But as adults the friendship between the two protagonists is complex and fascinating, add to that the political and feminist themes and I was completely sold.

    • See, this is what everyone keeps saying but it’s just SO HARD to pick up book two when I have a hundred books in my TBR stack that I’m busting to read…

  2. Guilty as charged.
    But how strange! Re-reading my own reviews of Books 1 & 2, I see that I was tormented by having to wait for Book 3. Yet I haven’t touched it since it arrived on my TBR. I think it has been tainted by Ferrante Fever because now my recollection of Book 2 is not so favourable…

    • Well if your recollection of book two is not so favourable, I’m leaving it well alone! Maybe it was a case of high expectations but that aside, the writing simply didn’t captivate me and the plot had none of the focus that I enjoyed in The Lost Daughter.

  3. I was on the fence about this one. Sounded promising enough that I was considering reading it, but not enough that I actually put it on my tbr list (I’m trying to show restraint and not just add every single book I come across to it). I feel less bad now about skipping this one.

    • I guess if you like reading series, then the chance to read a literary series doesn’t come along all that often (so read these). But, I’m not really into series and would have no qualms about stopping this one after book one (I know some readers simply couldn’t do that!).

  4. Despite all the exposure for Ferrante I’ve not felt drawn to reading the series myself. I can’t say exactly why that is other than I thought it would be a very slow experience.

  5. This book has migrated from my TBR mountain to the less daunting pile next to my bed where the TBR-sooner-rather-than-later books live. It had never occurred to me I might not like it! All the reviews, as you say, were rapturous. You’ve done me a favour – I’ll go in with less ridiculously high expectations.

    • I think that’s important (I had very high expectations). I’ll look forward to your thoughts when you’ve read it.

      Unrelated: I also have a TBR mountain and a TBR-sooner-rather-than-later stack.

  6. I’ve completely avoided reading these so as not to be swayed by the hype; the fact that you’re unimpressed speaks volumes (as it were. heh.)

    • The odd thing is that I didn’t really tune into the hype until the fourth one came out and then I was wondering where I’d been! Even more odd was that I had bought the first two books as soon as I had finished Ferrante’s stand alone novel, The Lost Daughter. I don’t want to put you off completely (so many people can’t be wrong) but I did find My Brilliant Friend painfully slow.

  7. Ooh, disappointing. Everyone raves about these books, and I finally picked up #1. Maybe it won’t take priority over my 1000 other books to read just yet…

  8. I haven’t succumbed to the fever of this yet and you are the second person whose review I have read that is less than favourable – I’m with you, if you are not loving it and have other fabulous books awaiting you – let it go!

  9. My fever got interrupted. Read book 1 in fits and starts, struggling to keep on top of who was who. Started book 2, then wondered whether I’d mixed the volumes, and had started book 3, but by then I’d put it down and gone somewhere else. My plan: I have all of them. I will reread them in a stream, possibly over the next summer. (My mother has read them all and enjoyed but didn’t rave and is quite critical of the translation, found it jarring.)

    • I read book one in fits and starts as well – I’m sure that was a mistake. That aside, I did find the whole thing very slow. I don’t mind slow if there’s lovely words to go with it but I honestly wasn’t into Ferrante’s style.

      You seriously have killer perseverance when it comes to reading – I couldn’t contemplate reading this book again and I’m unlikely to read the rest of the series (unless someone I trust tells me otherwise πŸ˜‰)

      • I do have perseverance, if nothing else… I like slow and don’t need the beautiful words always. But I need the pay off somewhere along the line and I can’t read one and not read all, because they aren’t meant to be read singly.

  10. I liked it for the immersive experience, but I don’t think I enthusiastically recommended it to anyone because it is long and sometimes a slog. The 4th book was devastating. I think you could live a long and fulfilling life either way. It’s sort of like In Search of Lost Time in that way. I would have been fine without reading it, but I feel like it did enrich my life for having done it.

  11. Sorry to hear that you aren’t continuing with this book/series but I understand; I pretty much binged through the whole series and can imagine a stop anywhere will affect the experience/drive to continue.

    On a similar note with other commenters: while I blitzed through the series, I found book 3 to be the slowest, lol. Thankfully book 4 was back on form πŸ™‚

  12. I will point to your review as additional justification to skip these. Despite the raves everywhere, there are just too many other things I’d rather read right now.

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  14. I enjoyed the first 2 books (esp the second one) but the third one did my head in. I haven’t picked up the last book (& I’m not sure if I will). There was some great writing and a some great set pieces. I was fascinated by the camorra and how it’s such an integral part of life in Naples and the learning about something new kept me going for a while. But I just don’t like any of the characters or feel the need to find out what happened to them.

    I am going to the translator’s session at the SWF though, so maybe her talk will reinspire me to read book 4.

  15. I’ve stayed away from these for numerous reasons (including those horrid US covers) but I think that this would also be a slog for me. Just not my thing.

  16. Finally! Someone else who was not fussed by this novel! (Well, I do remember finding a couple of others lurking around last year but we are in the minority…)
    I hoped I would fall in love with the story and frantically read the whole series – isn’t that what everyone else is doing? In reality I found it dull and as I stopped caring about the characters (who I kept confusing) I gave up. I got about half way through and started finding it a chore.

  17. I am with you 100% which why I never even reviewed the book nor will I be reading any of her others. I gave it a 2. It’s really strange because I got to hear Lauren Groff (Fates & Furies) here in Seattle and she said, “My Brilliant Friend- great story, but not great writing.” which sounded odd until I realized I agree. I do not like her writing.

    So, while others misled you I’m not in that group (yet). πŸ˜‰

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