The Diane Rehm Show

Readers’ Review: “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante

Friday is Wash Day for the people of Naples, Italy, July 1956.

The “Neapolitan novels” are a series of four books written by Italian author Elena Ferrante. They trace the fierce, decades-long friendship between Lila and Elena, two working class girls from Naples. The English translations began rolling out three years ago. Since then, Ferrante has developed somewhat of a cult following that unexpectedly pushed her books onto the bestseller list. Critics have called her “the best contemporary novelist you’ve never heard of.” And, in fact, nobody knows her true identity, as she publishes under a pseudonym. For our November Readers’ Review, a discussion of the first of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels: “My Brilliant Friend.”


  • Maureen Corrigan book critic,NPR’s Fresh Air; author, “So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures”
  • Louis Bayard author, “Roosevelt’s Beast.” His other books include “The Pale Blue Eye,” “The School of Night” and “Mr. Timothy,” a New York Times Notable Book. He teaches fiction writing at The George Washington University.
  • Laura Benedetti professor of contemporary Italian culture, Georgetown University; author of “The Tigress in the Snow: Motherhood and Literature in Twentieth-Century Italy” and of the novel “Un Paese Di Carta”