As the point of this blog is to encourage me to write, but has so far resulted in me avoiding it at all costs, I’m going to ease into my first post with a list. The Top Ten Tuesday lists at The Broke and the Bookish were the first to catch my eye so enough with the procrastinating and away we go!
This week’s list is Ten Books About Friendship, but several minutes of pondering have made it clear to me that the books I read are rarely predominantly about friendship, but that friendships often provide the support the protagonist needs to keep on keeping on. Several further minutes of pondering have indicated that the characters in the books I read seem to be lacking friends and should maybe get out more.
Perdido Street Station – China Miéville
Isaac and Yagharek.
I’m not sure why this was the first friendship to come to mind when contemplating this list, as it’s certainly not one of the best. However, it is a good example of how friendship can form initially from simple repeated contact with someone and a serious lack of other options. These two are also a prime example of the ability of an individual’s prior history to skew the foundations of a new friendship.
Penny Pollard’s Diary – Robin Klein
Penny and Mrs Bettany.
I loved these books when I was younger and I still have them all. The only friendship with a large age gap on this list, but probably one of the strongest. Mrs Bettany is the sensible friend that everyone needs, while Penny careens about the place getting herself into all sorts of mischief. Later in Penny Pollard’s Letters, Penny discovers that a boy can make a decent friend as well.
The Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett
Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.
Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs.
This series has numerous quiet friendships ticking along in the background, but the two that first jumped out at me were Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg and Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs. Both long-standing friendships that are revealed not by death defying acts of bravery (although they may happen on the odd occasion), but by the easy familiarity in which these pairs interact. Nanny Ogg can manipulate Granny Weatherwax into doing the right thing, and not only is Granny aware that that is what she’s doing, but she actually relies on Nanny to do it. Fred and Nobby taunt each other relentlessly, but also know exactly the right moment to simultaneously sidle around a corner out of harm’s way.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Lizzie and Charlotte.
When I first read this in high school I was firmly on Lizzie’s horrified side over the Mr Collins debacle, but a further re-reading a year later (I lucked out and studied it twice at school, the only book I have had to study and still actually enjoy) actually had me cheering for Charlotte. Ms Austen really is marvellous at making even the heroes look like a bit of a twit on occasion, and despite Lizzie’s vehement outburst, she quickly comes to understand Charlotte’s point of view. The fact that Lizzie tolerates both Mr Collins and Lady Catherine for an extended period of time definitely says something about the depth of this friendship.
Shriek – Jeff Vandermeer
Janice and Duncan Shriek.
I just finished re-reading this, and I had forgotten how deeply these two care for each other. Although they are siblings, they are also definitely friends, although they may not have become friends if they hadn’t grown up together. There are some serious life changing events in this book and the trust they have in each other is sometimes they only thing which gets them through and pushes them onwards.
The Fourlands Series – Steph Swainston (this confused me for a moment as the third book was for some, most likely completely ridiculous, reason, renamed Dangerous Offspring in the US, instead of The Modern World)
Jant and Lightning.
An odd pair as all the best friends are. Lightning has been Jant’s mentor for some time but they are clearly friends by the time the first book starts, with Lightning trying to settle Jant down while Jant tries to drag Lightning out of his increasing nostalgia. The kind of friends who let crippling drug addictions slide.
Any of the Jeeves and Wooster books – P.G. Wodehouse
Jeeves and Bertie Wooster.
The sensible friend and the silly friend amped up to the nth degree. Based on the Roman theatrical trope of the clever slave and the foolish master, Jeeves gently steers Wooster in and out of domestic dramas as Wooster tries to assert his authority and is repeatedly put back in his place.
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Becky and Amelia.
One of my favourite books. A friendship used at times for distinctly mercenary purposes somehow manages to survive death, a war, betrayal and a whole snakes and ladders game of social climbing and slippage. Proof that friendship can take a serious beating and survive and that you can be friends with someone even if they’re not friends with you.
Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock and Watson.
I can’t believe I almost forgot this one. One of the classic friendships, two people who bumble along somehow managing to tolerate each other’s perceived failings and oddities. Probably best summarised to me by a quote from the BBC series Sherlock*:
And one friendship I’m not buying:
The City – Stella Gemmell
Indaro and Doon.
A disclaimer first, I read this at speed a while ago, so this summary is just based on general impressions of what I remember. Despite repeated insistence that these two were the bestest friends in all the world, there is a slightly uncomfortable master/servant power imbalance (unlike Jeeves and Wooster, there is no real indication that the master considers the servant to be her equal in any way), but the real issue for me was the aftermath of a certain unpleasant incident. A character who can only be upset for a paragraph about something of that severity that happens to her dearest friend? There may be a war going on, but no, I’m not buying it.
*gif borrowed from here.