A Tale of Two Novels


I’ve just finished reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, Book One: Childhood, Adolescence (Europa Editions, 2012). One sole point of view, that of the narrator, Lenu, furthers the story. Vacillating between admiration, fear, and envy of her first and dearest friend, Lila, she reveals an intimate picture of life in a poor suburb of Naples, Italy, with all its intricate relationships, codes of behavior, and cultural inhibitions. In the end, we learn how Lenu and Lila confront their personal ‘monsters”–Lenu through her own talent, ambition, and courage learned through her friendship with Lila.

While masking actual motivations–although one can guess at them–the narrator describes Lila’s behavior and thoughts so well that we assume she must be the brilliant friend of the novel’s title. The book’s last chapters upend that assumption and a few more.

I’ve written Malevir: Dragons Return with many points of view advancing the narrative and they all contribute to the reader’s assumptions about its eponymous villain. The book ends on a note of uncertainty, raising questions about the Malevir’s true nature. Driving the narrative with his threats and attacks, the beast terrifies the population of the Veiled Valley. As Aindle, he shifts between different shapes to help him achieve his aims; yet, on the last page, all the reader’s assumptions about his essence crumble. As I work on the sequel. I’m enjoying playing with these open questions, just as I enjoyed the plot twist in Ferrante’s last two paragraphs, which, of course, compels me to read the next one, The Story of a New Name.