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Archive for the ‘childhood’ Tag

Friendship Italian Style   Leave a comment

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It’s a rare movie that’s better than a book, so I didn’t want to gamble by watching My Brilliant Friend before reading the first in Elena Ferrante’s series known as the Neapolitan Novels. Although initially slow moving, the book didn’t disappoint. After watching the first episode on HBO, I can attest that it closely, beautifully follows the story of friendship, love and life in the outskirts of Naples, Italy.

Narrated by Elena, the plot follows her ties with her friend Lila, their families and community. Elena is the “good” girl of the two. Lila is fearless, tough. Both are exceptionally bright, although Lila doesn’t expend as much energy and concern into feeding her intellect; hers is an innate intelligence.

Ferrante deftly describes the poverty, the over-crowding, the classroom, the apartment buildings, the local businesses and the people who inhabit them. The reader can feel the dust from the dirt streets and smell the imagined cooking that must be emanating from the Italian kitchens. (Scant attention is paid to food, so it’s an assumption that meals are prepared; it’s Italy, after all.)

The girls are competitive and caring. Like many friendships, it waxes and wanes. Yet, Elena knows no else is capable of such meaningful conversation and exchange of ideas as Lila. Elena pursues her education from elementary to middle school and finally high school, but her friend’s parents don’t allow their daughter to continue. Still, the girls remain intellectual equals.

Against this backdrop are subplots of honor, superstitions and long-held societal traditions.

My Brilliant Friend
Four Bookmarks
Europa, 2012
331 pages

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Listening to I Forget What   4 comments

The title alone, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, is sufficient to lure the imagination, and Alexandra Fuller’s colorful, poignant memoir of her mother is enough to keep it willingly ensnared. This is a sequel to Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, which I did not read. But then I didn’t read Cocktail Hour either. Instead, I listened to it.

Conditions have to be just right for me to turn to an audiobook. Usually, it means a road trip, but in this case I wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, I was stuck painting the downstairs bathroom.

Fuller’s mother, “Nicola Fuller of Central Africa,” is a character full of flaws, passion and imagination. The author makes it clear it was not easy being her daughter. Nicola is exuberant to the point of embarrassment of all around her. While Fuller  does not hold back in detailing her mother’s domineering persona, neither does she waffle in showing the occasional moments Nicola allowed an approachable, sensitive side to appear. This is not a daughter-as-victim tell all memoir. It is a daughter recognizing who she is thanks to, and in spite of, her mother.

One of the joys of listening to this, rather than having read the book is that Nicola loves to sing. Like Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, the narrator breaks into song. Sure, I can imagine a tune in my head as I read, but here it was treat hearing this aspect of Nicola’s personality.

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness
Four Stars
Alexandra Fuller
Recorded Books, LLC, 2011