I have a confession to make: I judged this book by its cover. I remember the frenzy of press around this book, the series, and the *mysterious* author. I also remember seeing the cover and being completely uninterested. It is, in my opinion, a dreadful cover. It looks like it was cobbled together to act as a prop. It looks like a poorly thought out passion project. I still think the cover is awful, but I am glad that I changed my mind around shunning this book.
I finished reading with a shout, scaring both husband and cats alike. It was not the first time that I shouted, gasped, or otherwise exclaimed; the heat of this book sinks into your very being. I am a sucker for a coming of age story- especially one that follows the trajectory of a young woman of talent and guts. I do not need any more mopey Holden Caulfield types. Lenu and Lila are fierce. They are smart, competitive, capable, and utterly crushed by the circumstances of their surroundings.
Violence is the adhesive that gums up the works of these girls, their families, and their community. The War never ended in the streets of Naples; men who were broken by war, Fascists, organized crime, poverty, and family history scrabble to find their own piece of power. They wield their small power on the smaller people of their community; usually aiming their frustration and impotence at the women and children in their path.
Children in My Brilliant Friend are thrown headfirst into the future while still being chained to the past. They are the property of their families. They are bound to follow, respect, and obey- but they are also expected to shoulder the burden of the adult world simultaneously. This novel ends with a terrifyingly adult transition, one that hits even harder when you are reminded that the leads here are not “underage women”; they are girls. They are children.
I was lucky enough to find this novel hiding in a neighborhood Little Free Library; what are the odds of finding the next two books hidden in the hills of my city?