Many great tales have been centred on romantic love, from classic plays like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to modern day works of fiction like The Notebook. Of course, while these romance-filled stories are poignant, beautiful and will likely take up space on the shelf of any bookworm, they aren’t the only depiction of love to get lost in.
Anyone who’s experienced true and meaningful friendship in their lives will know it’s a form of love just an important as the romantic kind. It can fulfil us equally and last just as long.
Happily, there are some beautiful novels which put friendship – and the power it holds – front and centre. If a read about true friends is what you’re after, here are some books to consider…
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Willem, Jude, JB and Malcolm become friends in college and after graduating, move to New York to follow their dreams of high-flying careers. While, in the most part, they manage to ascend their chosen career ladders, that doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. Jude is left grappling with the trauma of his past that’s still shaping his present. While it’s a tough read, this book is undoubtedly about the life-defining impact of true and lasting friendship.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
This book tells the inter-connected stories of 12 different characters, who are mostly women, black and British. While the novel pores over the nuances of different kinds of bonds from maternal to romantic, it also centres on friendship, examining how and why it develops and falters.
The Familiars by Stacey Halls
In 17th century Lancashire, Fleetwood is a young, pregnant woman without many allies. Her mother is cold, her husband is often absent and she’s left alone in her grand home to ponder over where life will take her. When Fleetwood meets the mysterious Alice, who has the power to keep her unborn child healthy, the pair develop an unlikely friendship and become more reliant on each other than they could ever have imagined.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
A heart-warming novel about the importance of reaching out the hand of friendship. Eleanor is a social misfit who lives a lonely existence until Raymond joins her office as a new colleague, and she finds solace in companionship at last. As Eleanor and Raymond’s bond grows, she begins to come to terms with her own fraught past and move on from the trauma she’s been haunted by.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie is a 20-something journalist living in London and navigating some major changes. Not only is her relationship with boyfriend, Tom, disintegrating, things aren’t going well at work and the home she’s known and loved all her life is quickly changing due to the gentrification of Brixton. As she struggles to keep afloat in the turbulent waters of her life, Queenie’s eclectic group of friends are there to rally around her.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Two friends dream of being dancers but while one is hard-working and tries to plan her career out in front of her, it’s Tracey who has the raw talent it takes to succeed. Swing Time tells of their close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten either.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is known for being a must-read tale of sisterhood. While that’s true, the story is also about the special friendships joining the four very different siblings – Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth. There’s also the matter of Jo’s complicated friendship with neighbour Laurie, who comes in between the girls.
The Lido by Libby Page
In south London a young journalist, Kate, and 80-something widow, Rosemary, find themselves thrown together in a fight to stop their local lido from being demolished and sold off to property developers. It’s a story about friendship blooming in unexpected places and the joy it can bring.
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s novel is an examination of toxic friendship. When visiting her childhood home of Toronto for a retrospective show of her art, Elaine is overwhelmed by her past. She’s forced to confront the memories of her once best friend-turned-tormentor, Cordelia, who’s impacted her life for forty years.
Sula by Toni Morrison
Childhood best friends, Nel and Sula, drift apart when the former gets married and becomes a well-respected mother in their hometown, while the latter runs away to follow her dreams. When Sula returns home after ten years, the two women return to the old highs and lows of their childhood friendship.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Book one in Ferrante's globally successful Neopolitan series introduces readers to the story of Elena and Lila, growing up in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples. The girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else, and their friendship becomes a lifeline as they grow older.
The Confession by Jessie Burton
This moving and gripping novel flits between modern day London and LA in the 1980s, piecing together the stories of two young women - Elise and Rose. At the story's heart is the growing (and complex) friendship between Rose and reclusive veteran writer Constance.
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