Reading is my favorite pastime.
It isn’t actually a pastime, it is an essential part of my life. I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I simply couldn’t see myself without a book, ever.
It’s always been like that. Since I was able to read properly, you’d always see me with a book in my hand – maybe even before, I just don’t remember.
I have always lived in a small town and the local library didn’t have many children’s books. I read all of them. And you can’t imagine the disappointment when I realized that they were over, that there was no new book waiting for me on the shelves.
My love for books has never abandoned me. Books are the food for my soul, they make my life better. They make me travel to faraway lands when I can’t leave home, they lift my spirit when I feel down, they help me learn something new when I feel the need to broaden my knowledge.
They have always been there for me, they never let me down. It is quite hard for me to find a book I haven’t liked, at least in some way, but there are just some books which are “bigger than others”, as Morrissey would say.
Books that you can’t put down, stories that hook you from the very first page.
This is exactly what happened with L’amica geniale, written by Elena Ferrante. This book was published in 2011 and I have been wanting to read it for ages. Friends kept telling me that I absolutely had to read it, reviews were enthusiastic, but somehow I never felt the urge to add it to my library until a few weeks ago, when I finally got around to buying it. And I am so glad I did.
The book tells the story of two girls, Elena and Lila, and their friendship. The story, set in a poor neighborhood in Naples, begins when Elena and Lila are just two little kids and follows them until they are fifteen. Their friendship is narrated in detail, but what really strikes the reader is the way characters are described. Their portrait is detailed and insightful, digging deeply into their minds and behaviors.
Elena, the narrative voice of the story, meets Lila in elementary school and is immediately struck by the fact that she is very bad. She has no fear and is amazingly brilliant. Elena, who is shy and deliberate, is fascinated by all this wildness and outrageousness. The two kids become inseparable and face together the struggles of growing up in such a difficult setting.
Besides the characters, I loved that the book is set in a very violent, poor and neglected neighborhood, but somehow the two girls keep some sort of purity. Like wildflowers growing in the dirt. L’amica geniale is the first of a series of four books and I still have to read the remaining three, so I have no clue about how the story will go on – but I am dying to know.
Moreover, the quadrilogy covers 50 years of Italian life and it is an amazing way to learn more about the recent years of Italian history. I am eager to know both how the story of the two kids unfolds and how it is intertwined with the greater story of Naples and the whole country in the second half of the 20th century.
If you are interested in Italian literature or if you just want to read an amazingly good book, I heartily recommend it to you. You can find it in Italian, if you want to practice your reading skills, or in English, as My Brilliant Friend.
Do you like reading? Are there books you’d absolutely recommend? Please let me know, I am always looking for new titles!
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!