It seems that everyone has been talking about My Brilliant Friend , the story of two girls growing up in a poverty stricken Neopolitan district in the years after the war. Lenu, the narrator, is hard-working and conscientious, her friend Lila is brilliantly clever, a star who dazzles first Lenu and then half the neighbourhood, but seems in this book, the first of a quadrology (if that's the word!) to be destined for disappointment and frustration.
As much as a tale of the bond between the two girls it's also a story of the neighbourhood, their neighbours, the changing life in the years after the war, the casual violence which seems to permutate the way everyone acts - tellingly in one scene it's shown that the better off don't behave that way, how fast everyne had to grow up.
I found it uttterly absorbing, it's rare that a hyped book lives up to its promise but I hardly moved for several hours reading this on Boxing Day.I was completely drawn into Lenu's world,(which is so densely populated that I had to refer to the the list of characters at the front several times to place certain peple, but that didn't worry me), and love the way she describe a neighbourhood that is so completely different to anything I know with such economy of detail. It's not a particularly easy read, you have to concentrate, but it's a very rewarding one. Recommended.