My Brilliant Friend: The Graphic Novel by Chiara Lagani & Mara Cerri

An atmospheric and mysterious set of illustrations fleshes out Ferrante’s tale of two young girls growing up in postwar Naples. A must for lovers of the author’s works.

My Brilliant Friend: The Graphic Novel: Based on the novel by Elena Ferrante. Adapted by Chiara Lagani, with Elena Ferrante (With). Illustrated by Mara Cerri. Translated by Ann Goldstein.
Europa Editions
Hardcover | $26
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I have not availed myself of the experience of graphic novels in the past, so this is a first for me, perhaps for many of you. Or not. It is based on the international bestselling book by the enigmatic Elena Ferrante, surely a factor that must be considered when deciding whether or not to essay this deliciously illustrated tale.


The story is that of two young girls approaching adulthood but with much to learn before achieving that state. The relationship is rocky – often adversarial, mostly loving. Living in postwar Naples is not easy for anyone, but especially for young women dealing with all the trials of puberty, peer rivalry, misogyny/patriarchy, poverty and budding consciousness. Lila and Lenu clash over academics, boys, family issues, career choices and social adeptness. The stormy course of their friendship is the meat of the story, but the illustrations carry the reader to another level of connection with the protagonists.


Atmospheric, smoky, enigmatic, lovely in many ways, the artwork that fleshes out the tale is fascinating and compelling, raising the level of suspense, mystery and peril the girls face. The experience is entirely different from a purely textual reading of this novel and it will certainly affect those who try it in unusual ways that will surprise and delight. If you loved the Neapolitan Quartet of Ferrante’s books you will surely want this one for your shelf.