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La amiga estupenda by Elena Ferrante

La amiga estupenda by Elena Ferrante {Goodreads}
Published by Lumen in 2012
Paperback edition; 389 pages

If someone hasn't heard about Elena Ferrante yet, they've probably been living under a rock. This writer, whose identity is completely unknown, has become a complete literary hit. I've been meaning to give her a shot for the past two years and it finally happened. I have to say the first book didn't disappoint.

La amiga estupenda (My Brilliant Friend being the English title) starts when Lenù, our narrator, receives a call from Rino, Lila's brother, to say Lila has left without a trace. After that, Lenù takes us back to her childhood to tell us about her friendship with Lila. This first installment of the quartet talks about the childhood and adolescence of these two girls who live in a very poor neighbourhood in Naples. I have to say the most interesting aspect of the novel is indeed this friendship - a very dark and toxic one in my opinion. As I said Lenù is the one telling the story but there were some moments when I wished to read Lila's point of view to get a glimpse of her feelings as well because Lenù lets us see that they are very competitive with each other and I wished I could've known if Lila felt the same way.

Although the story is focused on these two girls, the undertone of the story is quite tough and gives us an idea of Italy during the 50s. Elena Ferrante depicts the lives of 9 families who live in a very poor neighbourhood and the violence around them. She also talks about the arbitrariness of life and the impossibility of escaping it, despite longing for a better life. Sometimes our social circumstances won't let us get away.

I believe this story to be worth reading; it really captivates the reader and you always want more. However, there was one little problem for me. Lenù is narrating as an adult and although that helps to give the story a more serious and sophisticated tone - some of Lenù's thoughts wouldn't have been so elegantly put if it wasn't for an adult narrative voice - there are also moments when Lenù's feelings became repetitive. Of course she's recalling shocking experiences she had as a child but she makes the same reflections several times and I felt a bit bored sometimes. But, this is a problem I had and in no way devalues the story. I'll let you know I have the second book ready to go.


RESEÑA EN ESPAÑOL

Quien no haya oído hablar de Elena Ferrante en los últimos años debe haber estado viviendo bajo una roca porque esta escritora, a la que nadie conoce, se ha convertido en un auténtico boom. Hace un par de años que quería haberle dado una oportunidad pero siempre lo iba dejando. Por fin me decidí a leer el primer libro de la tetralogía y tengo que decir que no me ha decepcionado.

La amiga estupenda comienza cuando Lenù, la narradora, recibe una llamada de Rino, hermano de Lila para decir que esta última se ha marchado sin dejar rastro. En ese momento Lenù nos transporta al pasado para contarnos desde el principio la historia detrás de su amistad con Lila. Esta primera entrega de la tetralogía nos habla de la infancia y adolescencia de estas dos niñas que viven en un barrio pobre de Nápoles. Tengo que decir que lo más interesante de la novela para mí es esta amistad, terriblemente oscura y muy tóxica a mis ojos. La narración corre, como ya he dicho, a cargo de Lenù y es cierto que también me hubisese gustado leer bajo el punto de vista de Lila más que nada porque Lenù está siempre comparándose con ella y da la sensación de que siempre se intentan superar la una a la otra y me hubiese gustado saber si esa era también la percepción de Lila.

Tengo que decir que, aunque la historia parece tratar sobre estas dos niñas, tiene un trasfondo muy duro y nos da una idea de la Italia después de la segunda guerra mundial. Elena Ferrante retrata la vida de nueve familias que viven en un barrio muy pobre y nos habla de la aleatoriedad de la vida y de la imposibilidad de escapar a ella. Uno no decide dónde nace y aunque se tenga la ilusión de escapar, de poder tener una vida mejor, muchas veces el deseo de uno no es suficiente y tu entorno al final te atrapa tanto si lo quieres como si no.

Creo que es una historia que merece mucho la pena leer, que te atrapa y en cierta manera tienes esa necesidad de saber más. Sin embargo, tengo que ponerle una pequeña pega. La narradora es una Lenù ya adulta y aunque eso ayuda a que el relato tenga un tono más serio y sofisticado (algunos pensamientos que tiene Lenù de niña que no se habrían podido expresar de forma tan elegante si no fuese una adulta la voz narradora) también hay momentos en los que los sentimientos de Lenù se vuelven repetitivos. Por supuesto que está contando vivencias que le chocaron de niña pero sus reflexiones a veces son las mismas en distintos puntos y dar tantas vueltas a lo mismo cuando un adulto podría haber sido más escueto pues me resultó aburrido en ciertos momentos. Es algo que me afectó a mí personalmente y en nada le quita mérito a esta historia tan estupenda. Ya tengo el segundo preparado, que se centra en la juventud de ambas, y espero que conforme las niñas se hagan adultas me enganche todavía más.

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