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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 316

My Brilliant Friend is a novel written by Italian author Elena Ferrante. My Brilliant Friend was published in 2012. The story spans decades in Italy and centers on two friends, Lila and Elena. The latter is the novel's narrator. The novel explores womanhood, the complexity of friendships, and the history of Italy, particularly Naples.

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One of the most important quotes in the story can be found in the first chapter of the novel:

At the fourth flight Lila did something unexpected. She stopped to wait for me, and when I reached her she gave me her hand. This gesture changed everything between us forever.

This simple yet vivid scene sets up the genesis of their friendship, which lasts for decades. It also shows the first time Elena fully trusts Lila, who she initially thinks is completely different from her. They are very different in personality; however, their polar temperaments ultimately complement each other.

Later on in the narrative, Elena gives the readers further insights into Lila's idiosyncrasies and personality type by stating,

I knew—perhaps I hoped—that no form could ever contain Lila, and that sooner or later she would break everything again.

This particular quote shows Lila's fiercely independent and headstrong personality, which Elena, the narrator, knows very well.

Besides the two women protagonists and the people around them, the city of Naples itself is a character in the novel. One of the most poignant quotes to illustrate this is:

When there is no love, not only the life of the people becomes sterile but the life of cities.

The city, like a person, is organic and is dependent on social dynamics such as love.

One of the main themes in the novel is the act of perseverance, especially as their lives and Italy as a whole experience great change throughout the twentieth century. Elena philosophically concludes that "if you don't try, nothing ever changes."

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