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Friendship by Emily Gould

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group UK
Source: Netgalley - Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book for review. 
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads (although I edited out a spoiler so don't look at any synopses - even the blurb on the back!):

A novel about two friends learning the difference between getting older and growing up.  Bev Tunney and Amy Schein have been best friends for years; now, at thirty, they’re at a crossroads. Bev is a Midwestern striver still mourning a years-old romantic catastrophe. Amy is an East Coast princess whose luck and charm have too long allowed her to cruise through life. Bev is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living with roommates, drowning in student-loan debt. Amy is still riding the tailwinds of her early success, but her habit of burning bridges is finally catching up to her. Friendship, Emily Gould’s debut novel, traces the evolution of a friendship with humor and wry sympathy. Gould examines the relationship between two women who want to help each other but sometimes can’t help themselves; who want to make good decisions but sometimes fall prey to their own worst impulses; whose generous intentions are sometimes overwhelmed by petty concerns. This is a novel about the way we speak and live today; about the ways we disappoint and betray one another. At once a meditation on the modern meaning of maturity and a timeless portrait of the underexamined bond that exists between friends, this exacting and truthful novel is a revelation.

I loved this book SO MUCH! It’s definitely one of my favourites of this year. I seem to have had quite a few favourites this year – it has been a good reading year! Anyway, I just feel like I’m on the same wavelength as the tone of Friendship right now. Despite what that rather youthful picture to your right suggests, I am a lot closer to Amy and Bev’s age than say Katniss Everdeen. 

Anyway, the novel is, as the title suggests, about friendship. Friendship between girlfriends, co-workers, partners, and friendships that just spawn out of peculiar circumstances. Then there’s this whole other plot line (that is given away in the blurb, which I luckily didn't read because I'd read a shorter spoiler free synopsis somewhere else, maybe Glamour? Anyway, I'd recommend you just go in blind too) that makes the whole thing even better. However, the main focus is on best friends Bev and Amy. I don’t think it’s a plot giveaway to say Bev and Amy become friends in their twenties, so there’s no shared childhood and college history between them, which was refreshing. I really liked their dynamic and their type of friendship will probably ring true for many. For example, the way they secretly admire each other but occasionally this admiration crosses the line into envy. This happens a lot in real life, doesn’t it? Then there’s that difficulty that arises from around your mid twenties onwards when your best friend hits a major milestone before you. On the one hand, you’re over the moon for them and so, so proud of their journey. Yet on the other hand, like Amy, you didn’t really think that kind of future was on the cards for you - as in you, the unstoppable duo. In a way, you want everyone’s journey to mirror your own. Then of course, you’re forced to examine your own life, which is never fun. Even if you’re really successful you’ll still find something to complain about. 

Growing up in the noughties (noughteens? What is this decade called?) we are so advanced yet so backward. We can start our own Etsy businesses from our bedrooms or whatever yet we still rely on our parents for a lot more than they ever did at our age, don’t you think? As Bev points out, her mother had three children at her age yet she can’t get a full time, permanent job. Amy can swan into work at her fancy loft office whenever she likes but her bank account is still linked to her mum’s. I liked the honesty in these types of anecdotes because I think quite a lot of us are in similar boats. What will be the catalyst to make us grow up? 

Another theme Emily Gould explores in Friendship is our constant need as women to compare ourselves to other women. It seems to be what fuels us and I don’t know if we’ll ever break out of it. Through the character of Amy she also teased out this trend of wanting, no needing, to be someone. It seems to intensify more and more every year as new outlets open up. I watched a documentary on PBS America the other day called Generation Like about all these tweens and teens and teen idols and their massive followings on Instagram and whatever. It was chilling. We need to re-prioritise BIG TIME but that’s a conversation for another day. 

Finally, Friendship really highlighted that being forced to take a step ‘backwards’ in order to move forwards is one of life’s great challenges – particularly for people like Amy and Bev. When the first 20+ years of your life is all about progress – education, accumulation – of course it is a shock when you have to seemingly do something beneath you, whether that’s taking a lower paid job, moving back in with your parents, or leaving your happening neighbourhood. Your pride really takes a blow. People will tell you it’s character building, and that you’ll learn great lessons along the way, and that you’ll come out stronger. Whilst this is all true, going through it sucks! Friendship really showed this in a realistic, relatable, and authentic way. 

I would love a sequel but then again I think I need to learn to leave characters where they are. I liked the ending – it summed up this generation perfectly – so I just need to say goodbye Amy, Bev, and Sally and thank you Emily Gould.

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