cover image My Brilliant Friend: The Graphic Novel

My Brilliant Friend: The Graphic Novel

Elena Ferrante and Mara Cerri, adapted by Chiara Lagani, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. Europa, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-60945-946-8

Based on Ferrante’s 2011 bestseller, this impressive graphic novel adaptation recalibrates the original story line of fraught friendship in post-WWII Italy with sensitive, buoyant drawings and economic yet powerful narration. Elena “Lenù” Greco and Raffaella “Lila” Cerullo grow up together in poverty and amid violence in 1950s Naples. Both girls show academic aptitude and ambition, especially Lila, who teaches herself to read and write. But only Lenù’s parents allow her to continue in school. She feels torn with pity, shame, and jealousy, believing Lila is “always one step ahead.” Meanwhile, Lila is pursued by nearly every man in town. The adaptation delicately, and sometimes more brazenly, captures the charge between the two, with a brilliant deep blue suddenly appearing or disappearing in emotionally charged sections. For instance, when Lila asks Lenù to swear they will “never leave each other,” the story turns to pages of wordless images depicting explosive fireworks in various blue hues. The colorful and lucid sketches crackle on the page. This adaptation exquisitely captures Ferrante’s story of a passionate and consuming friendship. (Oct.)