Literary Friendships: Four Favourites From My Bookcase

Let’s hear it for friends! What would we do without them? Friendship, being part of a social group, is one of the great motivating factors in our lives, and yet I feel like friendships often take a second place in stories to romantic relationships. Romance is important to many of us, and the highs and lows of a romantic relationship can make for a killer story, but I don’t want platonic love to fall by the wayside! So: in celebration of the non-romantic, non-familial relationships in our lives, I’ve pulled together four examples from my own shelves of book-based friendships that I love, along with some thoughts on what makes them special to me.

Cassie, Emily and Lydia – Finding Cassie Crazy, Jaclyn Moriarty

This is an epistolary novel (fancy way of saying a story told through letters, notes etcetera), so you get a unique insight into the lives and minds of the three girls the story centres on. The chapters focus on each of them in turn, and, while a lot of the communications are between the girls and their pen-pals from the all-boys school, their friendship is constantly coming across in the way they talk about each other as well as in the notes and emails you see exchanged within the friendship group.

One of the things I love about the relationships between these three characters is how different they are from each other. There’s a lot of talk in romantic relationships about ‘opposites attracting’, but I think the same can definitely be true of friendships. Sometimes the people you most need in your life are the ones who balance you out, not the ones who think, talk and act just like you.

Miles Halter (Pudge) and The Colonel – Looking for Alaska, John Green

Miles isn’t my favourite fictional character, but I completely identify with his desire to be a cooler, more interesting version of himself. And something I love about The Colonel, and his friendship with Miles, is his willingness to allow Miles to experiment with being that version of himself.

I think one of the features of a really strong friendship is that it makes you feel safe to try new things, and encourages to be the best version of yourself, and I think we see both of these things in this friendship. In fairness, they do also encourage some pretty poor behaviours in each other, but sometimes egging each other on to do something stupid is part of a great friendship! And, on balance, I think there are more positives in their relationship than there are negatives.

Lazlo Strange and Calixte – Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

I am constantly disappointed by the lack of strong friendships between people who could be attracted to each other in media. Even this is only half there, because Calixte seems to be attracted to women. She could be bi—it isn’t explicitly stated either way. But anyway, my point is that I take real issue with the way that, in stories, friendships between people with the potential to fancy each other almost always seem to build to them being in a relationship. Or at least wanting to.

Both of these characters are great, they’re adventurers at heart despite having had very different lives up to the point where they meet, and there’s real joy in the way these kindred spirits recognise each other. I also love the way Lazlo and Calixte support and admire each other without the slightest hint of sexual tension. I totally appreciate that people like to read about romance, my WIP has its fair share of the stuff, I just wish there was a little more room left for deep and loving friendships.

Darcy and Bingley – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Okay, yes, there are some issues with this friendship. But there are two things I really appreciate about it. One follows on from my previous point; that in this, one of the most classic romances, there was room for not only Lizzie’s friendship with her sister Jane, but also the friendship between Darcy and Bingley. The other thing I love is the way Darcy owns up to his mistakes. We see him do it with Lizzie, we don’t see him do it with Bingley, but I think we have to imagine that some version of the same conversation would have gone down. We all like to give advice to our friends, but it’s hard to admit that we’ve steered them wrong, particularly for somebody as proud as Darcy! But he puts his friend’s wellbeing before his own comfort, and that’s a real strength.

What are your favourite book friendships?

And if you’re writing, do you have any favourite friendships from your work in progress? I’d love to hear about them!

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