Tag Archives: Elena Ferrante

The Beach at Night by Elena Ferrante. Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein.

The Beach at Night by Elena Ferrante Title: The Beach at Night
Author: Elena Ferrante
Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
Illustrations by Mara Cerri
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609453701
Genre: Children’s Books, Picture Books
Pages: 38
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This book is a picture book by Ferrante. It is also a children’s book (or so it seems). The Beach at Night is a deceptive book, that pretends to be a book for kids and can scare the bejesus out of you. It is a macabre story of a doll and has several hints of terror. This is told in the traditional sense of a fairy tale for kids, but goes deeper than that. The book is from the doll’s perspective (almost reminded me of the doll we meet in My Brilliant Friend) and has so much touches of darkness all throughout.

It is as though all her books have the same theme – darkness, loneliness, and the idea to belong at some level. Although this book does have a happy ending, it still is peppered with a lot of dark imagery (though it is this small a book). I don’t even know if the book is for children really, but it definitely works for adults.

In this one the translation itself might be limited, given the few use of words, but nonetheless it is done effectively to transport you to the world of Ferrante. Let me tell you something about the story. Celina the doll is jealous of the new kitten Minu. She gets lost along the way and somehow the story then reaches the beach. What happens next and the things that happen to her is what the book is about.

The illustrations by Mara Cerri are so aligned to the story and are more than enough to create the atmosphere of loneliness and abandonment, thereby leading to the other darker themes of the short picture book. The Beach at Night is an unusual book, and yet hands down so fulfilling a read, the one that will haunt you for a while.

Book Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Title: My Brilliant Friend
Author: Elena Ferrante; Translator: Ann Goldstein
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609450786
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Friendship. The world conjures so many images and experiences. It is difficult to pinpoint one and alienate them from the other. There have been several movies made on this emotion (it would be safe to call it that) and several books written on it as well. I have just finished reading one of such books, titled, “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante, set in Naples, Italy.

The book begins with a phone call in the present and then moves to the past. The story is set in the present times and begins in 1950s in a poor and vibrant neighbourhood of Naples, where two best friends Elena and Lila meet and their lives change (I know it is a cliché but it is true) as the town, city and nation progresses on its own terms and conditions. There is a lot that happens in the book and yet at no point Ferrante is rushing the reader. You can read the book at your own pace, which to me is one of the best things about this book.

The sub-plots in the book make it even more interesting. There is a lot happening in the book, which almost runs parallel to the core of the story. The neighbourhood in which the girls grow up – the different personalities that make up the place, the economic status, the small joys and the importance of education are brought about beautifully by Ferrante. The girls embrace intellectualism and are able to cope with their existence to a very large extent. At the same time, they are equally motivated by their lady teacher to stand up for themselves and are forever competing while growing up.

There is the usual on-going in the book: The different personalities of the girls, the ways in which their lives diverge and sometimes cross paths and how the two of them still remain friends no matter what. This is only the first installment of a trilogy. There is thankfully more to come as Ferrante leaves a lot of threads hanging in this one, which had me wondering about the closure of the characters and situations. What also struck me the most was the landscape of the novel – the cities and the towns and the country in which this book is set and how it travels the lay of the land is stunningly described. That is one of the major points of this book as well.

The writing is fluid and does not restrict itself to the plot. The translation by Ann Goldstein does a fantastic job of communicating this to readers. Elena Ferrante for me was a new writer and I am so not disappointed in reading this one. In fact I am almost elated that I read this book. While the story as I said earlier is almost clichéd, it is the way in which it is written, that makes it different and unique. The reader tends to feel and connect with both protagonists. Some may identify more with Elena and some less with Lila, however both are equally important to the way the story moves and progresses. This is one-of-a-kind novel and a must read. I for one cannot wait for the other two parts to be out.

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