Elena Ferrante's "My Brilliant Friend"

Naples-born author Elena Ferrante has swept through the literary world like a whirlwind. If you've read her novels, you'll understand why she's so popular.

Ferrante's first novel in her best-selling Neapolitan series, “My Brilliant Friend,” premiered on HBO in mid-November. The series features two young girls, Elena and Lila, growing up in an impoverished Naples neighborhood when the city was still recovering from the ravages of the Allies battling Nazi forces street by street in 1944. In the Neapolitan series, Elena (or Lenu' in Naples dialect, Ferrante's autobiographical character) and Lila maintain a powerful emotional bond that lasts for decades. “When the most important friend in her life seems to have disappeared without a trace, Elena Greco, a now-elderly woman immersed in a house full of books, turns on her computer and starts writing the story of their friendship,” HBO.com.

Who is Elena Ferrante? Ferrante is passionate about her privacy. She uses a pen name to remain behind the curtain; not granting interviews, attending book fairs or revealing her name. When an Italian journalist reported that he had discovered her identity, social media exploded with indignation and rage. "If she wants to protect her identity, let her!" was the message from fans. BBC also defended her privacy, saying that Ferrante fever has spread around the world and gathered millions of readers of her four-book series that spans 50 years of two girls maturing into women, wives and mothers. Ferrante is not shy; she maintains a public presence - behind her pen name. She writes a weekly column in The Guardian, mostly personal essays about life, hope, writing - and privacy.

I read “My Brilliant Friend” when I was researching my novel, “Vesuvius Nights,” which takes place in contemporary Napoli. Walking the backstreets of Naples last summer, I could almost see Lenu' and Lila walking home from school, playing in a park or sitting on a bench, talking about their lives and dreams. Ferrante's characters last long after you've read the last page. If you haven't already, I encourage you to read a Ferrante novel and discover her unique storytelling talents. Her writing is superb, she draws you in with prose that is almost haunting. You must continue reading to follow what is going through Elena's imaginative and searching mind.