The protagonist and narrator of the novel. Lenu grows up in poverty in Naples, but is very intelligent and academically successful. She has a long, close, but often ambivalent friendship with Lila.
Raffaella Cerullo (Lila/Lina)
Lila is the daughter of a shoemaker. She is strikingly beautiful and magnetically charismatic, even from a young age, but she is also manipulative and willful.
Fernando is Lila's father. He works as a shoemaker.
Nunzia is the wife of Fernando, and mother of Lila, Rino, and several other children.
Rino Cerullo (elder)
Rino is Lila's older brother. He takes over his father's trade as a shoemaker.
Lila's son. He is forty years old in the frame narrative at the start of the novel.
Elena's father. He works as a porter at city hall in Naples.
Elena's mother. She and Elena often have a difficult relationship, but she occasionally makes gestures showing her support for her daughter's ambitions.
Don Achille Carracci
A legendary madman in the neighborhood. He is the father of Stefano, whom Lila marries at the end of the novel. Don Achille is murdered when Lila and Elena are children, an event that is formative for both of them.
The wife of Don Achille, and mother of Stefano, Pinuccia and Alfonso, as well as other children.
The eldest son of Don Achille and Maria. After his father's death, he takes an active role in running the family grocery store. The store eventually becomes quite successful, making him wealthy. Stefano pursues and eventually marries Lila while she is also being courted by Marcello Solara.
Stefano's sister, the daughter of Don Achille and Maria.
The son of Don Achille and Maria, and brother to Stefano and Pinuccia
Alfredo Peluso and Giuseppina Peluso
Alfredo is a carpenter and Giuseppina is his wife. They have several children, including Carmen and Pasquale.
Pasquale is Carmen's brother; he is the son of a carpenter, but works in construction. He expresses romantic feelings towards Elena but is also clearly infatuated with Lila.
Carmela (Carmen) Peluso
Sister of Pasquale. She enjoys a relatively close friendship with both Lila and Elena, especially during the period after Elena begins middle school.
Melina is a mentally unstable widow, who is distantly related to Lila's mother. She is the mother of Ada and Antonio. During the childhood of Elena and Lila, she becomes notorious in the neighborhood for having an affair with Donato Sarratore.
The daughter of Melina, the mad widow, and sister of Antonio
The son of Melina, the mad widow, and brother to Ada. He works as a mechanic, and he and Elena are romantically involved during her teenage years. He is more committed to Elena than she is to him, but she finds him physically attractive and enjoys exploring her sexuality with him.
Works as a train conductor and is a very reserved and serious man. He is married to Lidia Sarratore and the father of five children, including Nino and Marisa. He is a womanizer, who has an affair with the mad widow Melina and also carries on a flirtation with Nella. He is a poet who publishes a book of poems, an accomplishment that Elena finds very impressive. While he is staying at the same vacation home as Elena, he makes sexual advances towards her.
Wife of Donato and mother to Nino and Marisa, as well as other children.
The son of a railroad worker; Nino is very intellectual and serious. Elena has romantic feelings for him from a young age and these continue throughout her adolescence.
Nino's sister. During their time on the island of Ischia, Elena and Marisa develop a friendship.
Nicola and Assunta Scanno
Nicola is a fruit and vegetable seller who lives in the neighborhood, and Assunta is his wife.
Enzo is the eldest son of Nicola. He is part of the same social circle as Elena and Lila.
Silvio and Manuela Solara
Silvio is the owner of a bar and pastry shop known as the Solara Bar. The bar gradually expands and becomes quite successful, making the family wealthy and powerful. Manuela is his wife, and the mother of their two sons.
The elder of the two Solara brothers. As his family's wealth and influence grows, Marcello becomes a notorious figure in the neighborhood. He is obsessed with Lila and pursues her aggressively. She, however, rejects his marriage proposal and marries Stefano instead.
The younger Solara brother who usually acts as Marcello's sidekick.
The daughter of a pastry maker. Gigliola is also very intelligent, and she goes with Elena to middle school.
A neighborhood boy who is the son of a pharmacist. He is romantically interested in Elena, and they are in a brief relationship but she is never truly attracted to him.
A teacher who has known Elena and Lila since their childhoods. She takes a keen interest in the education of both girls, and is bitterly disappointed that Lila does not pursue her studies, as she feels that her intelligence is being wasted. After the end of Elena's second year of high school, Maestra Oliviera arranges for Elena to spend some time away to rest.
She is the cousin of Maestra Oliviera and owns a house on the island of Ischia, where she rents out rooms to vacationers. Elena stays with her during the summer and spends time with the Sarratore family, who are also staying at the same house.
My Brilliant Friend Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for My Brilliant Friend is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.