The novel Mr Brilliant Friend took my breath away, telling of two women growing up in 1950s Naples to lead sharply contrasting lives but somehow still locked into their intense childhood closeness.
I had never read such a credible depiction of the pain and internal drama of having a friend who is both your confidante and your keenest rival.
So imagine my delight when I discovered that the Rose Theatre in Kingston was putting on a world premiere of the story of My Brilliant Friend, and of its three sequels in what’s known as the Neapolitan Quartet.
The story is really suited to the stage. Author Elena Ferrante (a pseudonym) sets her tale against a seething backdrop of organised crime, social change, machismo and rampant sexism, which all impinge on the friends, their families and their lovers, and the wider circle of working class families in their poor suburb.
It was recently announced that Lenu and Lila, the two protagonists, would be played by the brilliant Niamh Cusack and Catherine McCormack.
Like Wolf Hall, another recent stage adaptation of a highly successful book, the story will be told in two parts, as two plays which can either be seen one after the other on the same day, or apart.
The production opens at the Rose Theatre on Saturday 25 February and runs until Sunday 2 April. If it’s a fraction as gripping as the book it will be amazing theatre.
The book’s impact is all the more remarkable because it was written in Italian and is available in English translation. Ferrante’s prose is so clean and powerful that it appears to make direct contact with the heartstrings.
Time magazine this year named Ferrante, pseudonym or no, as one of its 100 most influential people on the planet. Go along and see why.
Click here to book tickets.