A forensic exploration of friendship between Lila and Lena. Dramatisation of the quartet of books by one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors.

From one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is the first in a quartet of books entitled The Neapolitan Novels. They are a forensic exploration of friendship between Lila and the story’s narrator, Lena. This is no normal friendship, it’s a friendship that loves, hurts, supports and destroys – and yet it is one that lasts a lifetime.

1 It begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets two girls, Elena and Lila, learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone – or anything – else as their friendship, beautifully and meticulously rendered, becomes a not always perfect shelter from hardship.

It is the story of a nation, of a neighbourhood, a city and a country undergoing momentous change.

This first book centres on their childhood and adolescence.

2 Striving to make a better life for themselves, they work hard at school but Lila is stopped in her tracks when forced to give up her education and work for the family shoe making business. It’s not long before their worlds are pushed apart and Lila ends up marrying a local businessman and son of the murdered local loan shark Don Achille.

3 The third book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, charting the lifelong relationship between two girls, Lila Cerullo and Elena Greco, who grew up together in the slums of post-War Naples.

Elena, having escaped to Milan after the publication of her first book, struggles to find the courage to live, parent and write again after her marriage to her increasingly dismissive husband Pietro.

Lila, meanwhile, also struggles to rise above her social conditions and desperately tries to find a way to better herself in whatever way she can. By day she suffers the daily abuse and exploitation at work in the local sausage factory and by night she works hard with her partner, Enzo, to make a difference with her life by studying hard the ever-changing face of technology.

Struggling with periods of mental darkness, she also wrestles with being a parent and finding the time to be true to herself. Eventually she is encouraged by a group of old friends and young students to admit her anger at the social adversity and abuses suffered by the women at work in the factory and to stand up and shout about it.

As always, amid the troubles, the two women turn to each other, gaining either strength or weakness from the other, not always to happy effect.

4 Elena Ferrante’s story of a life long friendship between Lila and Lena comes to an end in this sad and surprising final chapter.

Lena, now a famous writer, returns to Naples with her two children to find Lila has also managed to turned her life around, despite remaining in the claws of violent and mafia run Naples. Finding themselves both pregnant, the complications of their friendship grows ever deeper and the tensions deepen. As the city attempts to rebuild itself, post war Naples continues to struggle to accept or change the inevitabilities of life.

Broken marriages, violent relationships, and the yearning for something more – something better is never far away. The violent past of these two extraordinary friends will always be there and, for one, there seems to be only one way out.