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Search tags: this-book-is-brilliant
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text 2017-08-31 15:48
Reading progress update: I've read 80%.
The Bride Wore Black - Cornell Woolrich

I started this last night as my head start book for Halloween bingo and now I've totally screwed myself!

 

I can't finish it if I want it to count! But I want to knoooowwwww what the hell is going on this book. It's brilliant.

 

There are five sections. Each section has three chapters. The first is called Woman, and describes the murder for that section. The second is the name of the victim. And the third discusses the investigation.

 

The woman is killing men, and making it look like an accident. What is the connection between the men? Why is she murdering them? What the hell is happening here?

 

The plot is simple. The prose is stripped down noir, with all of the urban, nocturnal elements that I expect from this kind of a mystery. 

 

Can Cornell Woolrich sustain this to the end? I don't know, and I can't find out until TOMORROW.

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review 2016-09-26 02:42
My Brilliant Friend (Neapolitan Novels Book 1) - Elena Ferrante

I picked this up after hearing Hillary Clinton mention it was her current read on the I'm With Her podcast. I was completely enthralled by the beautiful translation of such an intricate portrait of girlhood, young womanhood, and friendship. 

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review 2016-03-12 17:14
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
My Brilliant Friend (Neapolitan Novels Book 1) - Elena Ferrante

Such a great book. It tells of how grinding poverty and toxic masculinity limit and crush the lives of those living in it. This is a reread, as I'd read it a few years ago in a Danish translation. 

 

This passage summarises what happens when poverty limits the possibilities of those living under it:

 

“The beauty of mind that Cerullo had from childhood didn’t find an outlet, Greco, and it has all ended up in her face, in her breasts, in her thighs, in her ass, places where it soon fades and it will be as if she had never had it.”

 

The next two books, The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay are even better.

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review 2015-08-06 18:51
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
My Brilliant Friend (Neapolitan Novels Book 1) - Elena Ferrante

I first became interested in this book and series after reading an article in the New York Times Book Review that incorporated passages from the text(s). The portrait of friendship between women and no-nonsense yet elegant writing drew me in, and, after reading My Brilliant Friend, both remain my favorite features of the novel, alongside the nesting-like structure at the beginning especially.

 

The title is assumed to refer to Lila, the protagonist's precocious, unique, and oft-manipulative friend, but a line near the end of the novel spoken by Lila to Elena (the protagonist) reveals the title to be (also) about Elena. This says much about the story, Elena, and friendship between women. Elena idolizes and envies Lila, and as a reader I wanted to shake her out of it, to stop comparing, to live her own life always, even as I recognized those feelings. I also came to envy, respect, but also side-eye Lila, who remains somewhat mysterious through Elena's pov. The two need each other, and their relationship is both a source of strength and occasionally toxic. At the very least, it's complex.

 

One element that draws the two together is their shared, poor neighborhood in Naples, which affects their ability to receive a decent education or go anywhere in life. When Lila becomes engaged to a comfortably monied merchant, her shift in class is a source of conflict as it is when Elena is permitted to attend school beyond the obviously brilliant and talented Lila.

 

Ferrante's prose feels muscled; she's got a strong voice that observes finely. Much of the novel circles around with its structure, beginning with the framed from the present story of Elena and Lila as children ascending the stairs of an infamous local don to retrieve their dropped dolls. The narrative goes back and forth to and from that and other moments, explaining more each time. The structure adds mystery and layers, and I read the book in big clumps as a result.

 

I'm certainly going to read the next novel in the series, and likely the whole thing.

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review 2015-07-12 13:03
My Brilliant Friend
My Brilliant Friend (Neapolitan Novels Book 1) - Elena Ferrante

“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.” So said Virginia Woolf and this, the forging of identity in relationship, is very much the theme of Elena Ferrante’s compelling novel. Elena, the narrator of the novel, is in first grade when we first meet her. She lives in a violent and impoverished working class district of Naples where kindred spirits or role models are hard to find. Certainly not her mother – “My mother did her best to make me understand that I was superfluous in her life. I wasn’t agreeable to her nor was she to me. I found her body repulsive.” Then she meets Lila. Lila is a wild child with exalted sensibility and intelligence for her age. In Lila Elena finally identifies an ideal she can aspire to. The portrait of Elena and Lila’s bond is the novel’s masterstroke. As all around them the somewhat coarse uneducated boys of the neighbourhood seek to distort and shape the girls to suit their own masculine vanity – “dissolve the margins” of separation - the two girls forge an independence of spirit that is nurtured by the inspiration they find in each other. They create a compelling and exciting inner world together, a stage on which they both are able to dramatise themselves as the heroines of their own fate. The novel is the story of their friendship and Elena’s attempts to transcend her background of thrift and mean spirited bullying.

It’s an unusual and highly distinctive novel (visually reminiscent of de Sica’s early brilliant films). Essentially because of the intensity and lucidity of Ferrante’s prose. She manages to write about the most prosaic detail with a kind of hallucinatory urgency and as such her voice hits exactly the right notes in expressing the joys and torments of adolescence when every day seems to hold moments of both pivotal humiliation and triumph, moments few adults are capable of perceiving. Thus the narrative is a constant high tension wire where the mundane relentlessly spills over into epiphany or violence. There’s a passage when Elena is writing about Lila’s prose style which would serve as the perfect eulogy of Ferrante’s prose style – “She expressed herself in sentences that were well constructed, and without error, even though she had stopped going to school, but – further – she left no trace of effort, you weren’t aware of the artifice of the written word. I read and I saw her, heard her. The voice set in the writing overwhelmed me, enthralled me even more than when we talked face to face; it was completely cleansed of the dross of speech, the confusion of the oral.”

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