What's the big deal? Well, so much is revealed in the Prologue that we would do well to keep in mind as we read. For starters, the opening pages make it very clear that the entire narrative is filtered through the memory of a woman at a particular stage of life, and that the story is being told a very specific reason. Beginning the novel with those little girls would have been a completely different choice on Ferrante's part, allowing us to follow their story more innocently, with less bias, less expectation. Instead, we meet them knowing already that one of them will decide, at 66, to disappear completely, eliminating all traces of her life, to her son's supposed dismay, and to the anger of the friend her actions goad into writing their story.
I should confess here that my interest in the way lives get narrativised in fiction began at least as far back as a grad school class. The prof, who was known for her scholarship on "the metaphysical detective story," used to repeat a formulation summarising a particular kind of novel whose narrator mourned the loss of a hero. In this "elegiac romance," my prof pointed out (using the term coined by another scholar, Kenneth Bruffee), the narrator might just as well have said, "I'm telling you a story about him which is really a story about Me."
So even before we enter the novel proper -- the story which is supposed to be about "My Brilliant Friend" (and it's worth considering that translator Ann Goldstein must have spent some time replacing the "geniale" of the Italian title L'Amica Geniale with "brilliant") -- perhaps we could pause to wonder: What does a narrator reveal about herself if, in claiming to write a story about the life she's shared with her friend, she also tells us that she's "really angry" and that she begins writing determined to " "see who wins this time."
Perhaps you could let us know, in the comments below, what you learn about Elena (whose name, we'll learn a bit later, has a diminuitive counterpart similar to the one she gives Raffaella) from the Prologue. As well, what clues or puzzles get set up in these few pages -- what do you become curious about already? Many of you, of course, have already read well into the rest of the novel, have perhaps even finished it and even the rest of the tetralogy. Still, it might be worth thinking about the way the narrating writer disposes us to receive her version of events by framing it in a certain context from the outset.
For example: what does Elena's treatment of Rino tell us?
What claims does Elena make that we have only her word for?
And even, perhaps, Why should you trust Elena, in her story-telling? Do you? Or are you at least willing to suspend disbelief or suspicion and let the story unfold?
And further: Even if you find Elena reliable enough, as a narrator, doesn't she herself warn you, at the end of the Prologue, that memory may get in the way? There are, after all, something like sixty years between the scene of the Writing Present and that of the Written Past we turn to in the section called "Childhood" which follows the Prologue.
As well as alerting us that memory might (surely!) fail, Elena earlier qualifies a claim that she "know[s Lila/Raffaella] well" by adding, parenthetically that "at least I think I know her." Readers must keep in mind that much as she's in control of her narrative, Elena is not an omniscient narrator.; she can't read Lila's mind.
That's enough to get us started, don't you think?