my brilliant friend - elena ferranteThis is the first of four volumes of the Neapolitan novels, set by the pseudonymous author in post-war, poverty-stricken Naples. Together, the four novels trace the life of Elena Greco and her friendship with Raffaella Cerullo as they battle with stubborn but changing class, gender and sexual expectations. Despite an overwhelmingly miserable and negative tone, I thoroughly enjoyed the first two novels which end when Elena and Raffaella are 25. I found the third and fourth instalments far more difficult, but my mother pointed out that was probably a result of not having gone through those stages of life yet. The books do not paint an attractive portrait of southern Italian society; they are a very effective antidote to the romanticisation of the area and the Camorra.

Set in Naples, Italy.

Recommended by Ed Robinson.

Buy the book here.