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Full My Brilliant Friend Book Summary & Review

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If you haven’t yet read this modern classic, this My Brilliant Friend book summary and review gives you everything you need to know about reading the book. And because this is a book pairings blog “where books meet lifestyle,” I have also provided some recommended lifestyle companions for you to enjoy with the book.

My Brilliant Friend Book Summary & Review

My Brilliant Friend is my favorite book of all time, an excellent character-driven book, and one of the best books set in Italy. "Brilliant" is actually an understatement.  Perhaps mesmerizing or intoxicating better suits this modern classic.

My Brilliant Friend is the first of four books in a series that is an epic saga of two female friends, Lila and Elena, growing up in poverty in Naples, Italy, in the 1950s.  The main theme of this story is what happens to the lives of these two girls as Elena remains formally educated and Lila does not.

Lila is scrappy, impulsive and "bad," but she has unparalleled intelligence.  Elena is polite, analytical and "good." While being intelligent through working hard across decades of time, Elena's natural gifts cannot match Lila's. 

Each girl is maddeningly complex and their friendship and relations with a robust cast of characters, which push and pull over time, made me feel the deepest feelings I have felt about characters and their choices.  

It's the type of book that shows that words have the power to make you feel, and want to scream, "I cannot believe she did that!" more times than you can count. It's an intimate portrait of real-life and living at this time and place, to be observed for its simple truths and beauties from a distance.  This is what makes this immersive novel exceptional.

My Brilliant Friend has the power to change your life because you simply can never forget these characters and their interrelations amidst a very particular backdrop.  It makes you think about the consequential influence of one's upbringing and culture upon her real life.  I see this as one of the ultimate questions we encounter in improving our lives and others. 

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Book Pairings

For something similar to My Brilliant Friend:

  • Watch the highly acclaimed HBO show of the same name! Seriously, it's fantastic, and Season 2 features the hotel at which we spent our honeymoon in Sorrento, Italy.  (Get Season 1 on Amazon now.)
  • Read my Best Book + Travel Guide to Sorrento, Italy.
  • You may also be interested in Normal People by Sally Rooney for a book that features an emotional push and pull relationship and/or Beartown by Fredrick Bachman for a book that features a large cast of characters living in a specific place and time, influencing the course of each other's lives.

That concludes this My Brilliant Friend book summary and review with some recommended lifestyle companions for you to enjoy with the book.

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