Four years after it was first published in the UK, My Brilliant Friend by Italian novelist Elena Ferrante broke into the UK Official Top 50 last week, and is currently celebrating its second week there (at number 50).
It’s a sweet moment of success for publisher Europa Editions and for Daniela Petracco, who runs the publisher’s London operations. The indie was founded by Italian publishers Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri in Rome, with a New York office opening 10 years ago; Petracco joined from Andrew Nurnberg Associates to launch a UK base in 2011. My Brilliant Friend, the opening novel in Ferrante’s quartet about Elena and Lila, two girls from a working-class district of Naples, was Petracco’s first big book.
She says: “I knew the work of Elena Ferrante very well. It was what first drew me to Europa Editions, and my boss and all my colleagues in Rome and New York had very high hopes.” But My Brilliant Friend was published “to a resounding silence” from reviewers. It was also a difficult retail climate. “Everyone was open to stocking Ferrante, but in tiny numbers,” remembers Petracco four years on.