by Elena Ferrante
This series of four novels or, perhaps better described as one novel cut four ways, is built around the intimate friendship of two girls growing up in 1950’s Italy and living out their lives orbiting one another. The first, My Brilliant Friend, begins when the now 66-year-old Elena learns that her childhood friend, Lila, has disappeared. What follows is the chronicle of a fascinating 60-year friendship begun as schoolgirls in a poor and violent Naples neighborhood. The succeeding volumes – The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and finally The Story of the Lost Child – follow Elena and Lila as they grow through childhood, young adulthood, middle age and into old age. The prose is no-holds-barred and brutally honest. Superbly translated by Ann Goldstein, an editor at The New Yorker.