Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Book Review Club - My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend
Elena Ferrante

After a string of Australian books both adult and children's, I was beginning to feel like a serial Aussie reader and decided to get out from down under if only to vary my reading.

So, I went to Italy. I've been craving gelato and chianti ever since.

There is a significant difference between old-world writing and stories from the "colonies", penal and otherwise. The old-world has, not always, but very often, a very melancholy feel to it, whereas "newbies" from the colonies seem to have been able to free themselves somewhat from that melacholy. Their more upbeat feel may be what's so alluring to me. Or the accent. These have all been audio books. 

Nevertheless, a little melancholia isn't a bad thing. What's more, My Brilliant Friend is jam-packed with writing tricks. But first, a synopsis:

My Brilliant Friend is the story of two young Neapolitan girls growing up in the harsh conditions of a very working class, poor neighborhood, their dreams, the diversions those dreams have to take due to economic hardship - one girl gets to go on to school, while her smarter friend is forced to quit school and try to marry up - and the successful, but flawed, women the girls become.

What is the absolute, most brilliant aspect of My Brilliant Friend, is its final line and how it ties the entire book together and then rips it apart, much like the last line of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's last sentence to One Hundred Years of Solitude deconstructs and erases the entire story that has gone before with one slash of the pen. Ferrante is brilliant in her alteration of this trick, to tie and deconstruct her story at the same time - all was for nothing - or so it seems since this is the first in a series of books called the Neapolitan Novels. However, I didn't know that as I listened to the last line and actually stopped my car from the force of that line. It made me think, reponder, rethink, re-reflect. It's that brilliant.

It's usually first lines that are so mesmerizing, pulling the reader in, hooking her, and making her want more. But if the last line snags in a reader's heart, it really never lets go. It haunts the reader, challenging her to think and think and think. It's an amazing writer tool I can't wait to use.

For more great reads, cinco de mayo your way over to Barrie Summy's website!


Lucy said...

You totally hooked me. I just went to my library's website and reserved a copy of this book. They didn't have it in audio form (which I wanted, based on your review) but that's okay. Two other people are ahead of me in line but I'm looking forward to getting and reading this book now.

Thanks for the review.

Sarah Laurence said...

Interesting reflection on last lines. Your reviews always make me want to check out the book myself. I shall take a look. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of my favorite authors and I love Italy.

Bee said...

Is this a new book? The cover definitely has a retro feeling to it. Of course the mystery of the last line is nearly irresistible!

Stacy Nyikos said...

It is new, from 2012

troutbirder said...

Brilliant review. I'm impressed I haven't seen the word deconstruct in some time. Though my English teaching mom used it on me a lot...:)

Barrie said...

Reserved the audio from my library. There are a whopping 5 people ahead of me. Drat. I was hoping to upload this evening. Not that I'm impatient or anything! So, uh, Stacy, what would it take to get you to tell us the last line?! Thanks for reviewing!