At the beginning of each month I do a blog post based on a Goodreads group called ‘Play Book Tag’ where they choose a theme and then people share, discuss, recommend and review the books that fit the theme.
The vote for September was very close and came down to a difference of five votes. The subjects were Dark Fantasy and Friendship. Friendship, as you have probably noticed, won.
If you are asking this question then I have no hope for you.
This is a fairly straight forward topic so I’m not too sure that I have a lot to say.
If I type in ‘friendship definition’ into Google I get the below:-
the emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends.“old ties of love and friendship”
a relationship between friends.plural noun: friendships“she formed close friendships with women”
a state of mutual trust and support between allied nations.“because of the friendship between our countries, we had a very frank exchange”
Psychology Today have an interesting article on what it means to be a friend here.
My definition is that friendship gives us warm fuzzy feelings because we have chosen to actively spend time with and share our thoughts and feelings with another human being. There is a reciprocal relationship involved but instead of being reciprocation in terms of goods and services there is often reciprocation in terms of emotional labour (support, advice, guidance) and time provided on those things.
The Ancient Greeks had 6 words for love and Philia is the second variety of love and is classified as deep friendship. Now what is interesting is that the Ancient Greeks saw Philia as a ‘brothers in arms’ type of love, the deep friendship and love that results as being part of comrades, usually males, in a battlefield.
That reminds me of when a friend of mine said I couldn’t possibly understand the movie ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ as I was a woman and the movie was about the power of friendship.
“Really?” I asked. “You’re suggesting that I, a woman, have no concept about the power of friendship even though ‘typically’ it is suggested that women are actually stronger at forming emotional bonds with other humans and are ‘better’ at forming bonds with other women in groups?”
“And,” I continued, “this is suggested to be because of the evolutionary factors when women were left together back when we were hunter/ gatherers and then again as men were encouraged to actively join the workforce/ society ranks leaving women to raise children together and then again when there were wars that left the women in groups. You’re saying that I have no concept of the power of friendship even when dictionary definitions often use female pronouns in their examples as that is still what society believes is their strength?”
“Er,” he replied.
“Well no,” I said, “clearly I have no clue.”
My hot take on it is that friendships are awesome and friendships in real life are awesome and friendships in books are awesome. I enjoy reading about friendships between males, between females and between males and females. So there you have it.
Usually I swing on by to Wikipedia but because ‘Friendship’ isn’t actually a genre there isn’t anything it can say.
I have relied on Google for this and typing in ‘friendship in fiction’ gets me some interesting results.
Out of the ten top search results 4 refer to friendship without reference to gender, 1 refers to toxic friendships (which is a whole other thing) and the remaining 5 refer to female friendships and suggest the best female friendships in fiction.
I won’t comment any further on what this means. But I want to. I have thoughts.
I went through the lists to see if there were any similarities and the answer is… very few.
Some of the lists focus on more recent (at time of publishing) contemporaries while others focus on more classic literature. The books that cropped up time and time again were Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg (1987), Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells (2002) and The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009).
If we creep back to the classics we get Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813), Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876) and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1908).
A common theme here appears to be books on female friendships written by female authors are most prolific. That’s not to say male friendships or male/ female friendships aren’t apparent or that books on friendship written by male authors also aren’t but it’s just that Google isn’t pulling those out of the hat first.
This is based off of the ‘Popular Friendship Books’ list on Goodreads which contains 1,250 entries. The top ten are: –
- Wonder by R.J Palacio
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling
- The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares
- Paper Towns by John Green
I always ask this question: What do I think?
I have heard of all but one which is Wonder and the only ones that I have read are the Harry Potter books. I haven’t read any John Green books but from the above I am getting that he writes about friendship a great deal. Is this the case dear readers?
In terms of what I can comment on I can only comment on Harry Potter and where I stand with those entries as friendship in fiction. In short I adore all the friendships presented in the book from the main trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione and their interesting dynamics to the Marauders to the introduction of Neville and Luna into their outer circle.
If I were to have any criticism its that I would have liked Hermione to have had more solid relationships with other female characters. Harry and Ron are best friends after all, personally for me it would have been nice for Hermione to have the same.
I don’t really have a top 3 friendship in fiction books but instead I have top 3 authors who I feel write about friendship and its importance and complexities very well.
In no particular order: –
Margaret Atwood – with the ones that I have read – The Handmaid’s Tale (which explores female relationships of all kind but there is a best friendship between Offred and Moira), Oryx and Crake (male friendship between Snowman and Crake), The Robber Bride (the destructive and toxic ‘friendship’ Zenia has with the other three women of the story and Alias Grace (between Grace Marks and Mary Whitney)
Alice Hoffman – again the ones I have read – Faithful (with Shelby and Helene and Shelby and Maravelle, although I think this whole book is about the power of friendship), Practical Magic (it’s more sisterhood but there is a strong female camaraderie between the aunts, Sally and Gillian and Sally’s two daughters) and The Dovekeepers (which focuses on four female characters and their relationships with others and each other)
Jane Austen – c’mon, this woman lives and breathes the sister/ friend vibe – shall I list them? Nope. Just going to leave her name here.
What are your thoughts surrounding friendship in fiction? Any favourites? What are your thoughts on the top 10 most popular? Do you think there’s a strong prevalence towards female friendships and female writers with this topic?
Let me know your thoughts!