Saturday, July 2, 2016

Book Review: My Brilliant Friend

I've redeveloped the habit of reading thanks to one Elena Ferrante, and thus wrote the following review on Goodreads about the phenomenon that her Neapolitan series have created: (It contains a few spoilers, nothing serious though.)

Probably what spurred most of the readers of this book to give it a try is the "Ferrante phenomenon." She is everywhere. My Instagram and Twitter feed, several magazine articles, my stuck-up intellectual aunt's recommendations. Through the first hundred and so pages of the novel, though, I was confused; what does it have that has made all sorts of readers declare it to be a marvel? Answer: Nothing, really.

It doesn't have an amazing plot. It isn't written in an otherworldly style. It's entertaining, but no Game of Thrones thriller. 

It is at most a fairly good book: So why the phenomenon? The Pyschology major in me had to give it SOME theory or other, so here it is:

What is endearing about Lenu and Lila's story is that we have all, particularly women who have lived through the intricacies of best-friendship, felt at some point or another like a Lena and/or a Lila. It is what most cheap magazines are wont to call FRENEMIES.

I, at least, saw myself reflected in Lenu's obsession with Lila, Lila's infinite love and envy for Lenu, their endless and competitive habit of comparing oneself to the other, the sexual undertones of their relationship, their mutual dependancy and dread of said dependancy, etcetera etcetera. It is the classical frenemy story but set in the novel landscape of a poor Neapolitan neighbourhood.

Yes, I enjoyed this book, and yes, I caught myself getting *feels* over it, and yes, I want to read the second book. But, no, I will not share a picture in Instagram declaring it the greatest book I've read so far in 2016. I'm sorry, Ferrante, but the hipster in me wants to rebel against your mainstreamness.

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