Elena manages to convince her family to let her stay in school, while Lila doesn’t; nevertheless, Lila continues to read and educate herself, even as she blossoms into a much-in-demand beauty, resisting the advances of the well-to-do boy that’s pursuing her.
The project’s brilliance most often comes in small but illuminating scenes, such as the look on the face of Elena’s father when he tries introducing her to a wealthy man at his work, only to be bluntly dismissed. Ferrante also deals with issues of class and inequality, filtered through a period of tumult, where turning to communism is among the alternatives.
While the lives shown aren’t glamorous, the meticulous nature of the village makes it a place you want to visit — whether the passage is booked by travel agent or time machine.
HBO has enjoyed a good deal of success with its limited series, many of them driven by high-profile stars, a la “Big Little Lies.” Here, the book is the centerpiece, and the setting and performances make it possible to escape almost entirely into the sometimes aching, sometimes stirring, almost invariably beautiful world of “My Brilliant Friend.”
“My Brilliant Friend” premieres Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. on HBO, with the eight episodes airing Sundays and Mondays over four weeks.