Often the modern novels I find myself reading are centered around a relationship. These are romance tales that, although weave friendships into the plotline, are often jinust there to support or challenge the main character, rather than really explored themselves. Today I have rounded up a few of my favourite novels that put female friendship at the heart of the action. Although these protagonists do experience heartbreak, family problems and career dilemmas, it is friendship that really drives the narrative, from beginning to end of the novel. If you have read one or two of the books I recommend already, I promise you are guaranteed to love the others just as much.
Expectation – Anna Hope
Set around London, three friends in their thirties have to accept the differences between what they expected their lives would be at this age compared to the reality they are living in.
In Expectation, Anna Hope introduces us to three women: Hannah, Cate and Lissa. Taking us through different stages of their lives and their friendship – from twelve years old, sharing a flat at uni to present day – Expectation explores how being at different stages of your life can affect friendships. Each of the characters undeniably have flaws, but Anna Hope manages to use this to make them into three-dimensional characters. We understand why they are making their mistakes, even if they are bound to hurt the friendships most important to them.
Us Three – Ruth Jones
Cat, Lana and Judith swear on a Curly Wurly wrapper at ten years old to be friends forever, come what may – but can it really be that simple?
Even the title of Ruth Jones’ second novel suggests this is a story about friendship; three women who are at the heart of each others’ lives. Similar to Expectation, we see the characters and their friendship at different stages of their lives – beginning with them going on a pre-uni holiday together, all the way to having grown-up children. The three have very different lives and dreams and it is really interesting to compare these – Lana is very similar to Lissa of Expectation in that she is more free-spirited than the other girls, and the repercussions of this are considered really well in both novels. I particularly enjoyed the role of Cat as a peacemaker between the two other girls – Ruth explores the unique dynamic a best-friendship of three can take really well.
Olive – Emma Gannon
Olive is independent and knows her own mind, but as her friends start to leave the path they’ve always taken together, she begins to question her outlook on the world.
Although Olive is taken from the perspective of one central character, it focuses on the differences between her life and her friends’, as she feels them slipping away from her after being in sync with them for years. I loved all four of the women in the novel – despite Olive being the central character, the issues that her three friends Bea, Isla and Cecily faced were both very complex and validated by the novel. This is a story of evolving friendships, fitting them around changing lives as Olive realises that even if they don’t meet up at the same restaurant every week anymore, as they had been doing since university, it is being there for each other through difficult challenges that really matters.
Ghosts – Dolly Alderton
Nina is a thirty-two year old food writer who is about to embark on the weirdest year of her life; she experiences online ghosting from a relationship, struggles with her parents and feels her best friends slipping away from her.
Okay, Ghosts is not strictly all about female friendship; it is also about changing dynamics between family members and challenging relationships. But it has a very similar feel to the other novels – if you’ve read them, you will love Ghosts, and vice versa. The central character Nina has different sorts of friends who are explored in the novel; from Lola, her single friend with seemingly no plan to settle down any time soon, to Katherine who seems to be disappearing into a complacent married life. Even explored is an unlikely friendship between Nina and her ex’s new fiance as she finds herself invited to her hen-do. Ghosts is very well written and the comparisons between Nina and her friends add depth to the novel, helping to better understand her character.
What are your favourite books about female friendship? I would love to add more to my collection!