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My Brilliant Friend

by Elena Ferrante

This is the first part in a trilogy chronicling the lifelong friendship and rivalry between two girls – the defiant Lila and obedient Elena - as they come of age in the impoverished back streets of post-war Naples. Despite the backdrop of casual brutality and neighbourhood feuds, the story is life-affirming and rich in the sort of cinematic detail that makes you feel closely involved in the girls lives, as they inspire each other to succeed.

Extract

We were twelve years old, but we walked along the hot streets of the neighborhood, amid the dust and flies that the occasional old trucks stirred up as they passed, like two old ladies taking the measure of lives of disappointment, clinging tightly to each other. No one understood us, only we two - I thought - understood one another... There was something unbearable in the things, in the people, in the buildings, in the streets that, only if you reinvented it all, as in a game, became acceptable. The essential, however, was to know how to play, and she and I, only she and I, knew how to do it.
Translated by Ann Goldstein

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