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My Brilliant Friend
by Elena Ferrante
Paperback : 336 pages
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From one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, comes this rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante's inimitable style lends itself perfectly to this penetrating portrait of two marvelous young girls growing up in a poor but vibrant neighborhood in southern Italy.
Elena and Lila learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone else, growing up in the tough outskirts of 1950’s Naples. As their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, the girls remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. The first in a trilogy, My Brilliant Friend introduces readers to two unforgettable protagonists and to the famed and flawed beauty of modern Naples.
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Discussion Questions1. Why is Don Achille such an important character? His presence looms over the whole novel; what does he represent?
2. Throughout the novel, Lila earns her reputation as “the misfit,” while
Elena comes to be known as “the good girl.” How do the two live vicariously
through one another, and what is it about their differing personalities that
makes their relationship credible? Which girl, if any, do you most easily
3. What is revealed of the girls’ characters on the day they decide to skip school? Do these discoveries surprise you? How does this effect their relationship (or our sense of their relationship) over the course of the rest of the novel?
4. It can be assumed that Elena’s voice is behind the title of the novel,
referring to Lila as “her brilliant friend.” However, toward the end of the
girls’ story, it is Lila who praises Elena, and encourages her to be “the
best of all, boys and girls” (pg. 312). Is this dialogue between the two
girls symbolic of Lila’s surrender? Are you surprised by Lila’s words?
5. What do the shoes Lila designs and makes represent symbolically? What
undertones do the shoes help to evidence in the latter half of the novel?
6. How would the book be different if told from the point of view of
Lila or another character? Is Elena's point of view the most appropriate?
Why or why not? Explain.
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