Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Review: Friendship by Emily Gould

I don't watch Girls, but I've read and heard enough about it to know that it's very, very popular.

Emily Gould's novel Friendship perfectly fits the current zeitgeist for stories about 30-something females trying to live lives that have it all - money, friendship, love and more.

Bev and Amy have been friends for years, but now that they've hit 30 they both find themselves a little lost. Amy is stuck in a dead-end no-job job, dreaming of the time she held fame in her hands, while Bev is festering in a sea of temp jobs. When Bev falls pregnant, the two friends find themselves at odds with each other, exploring a new world opened to them by Sally, an accomplished woman who seems to have her life together.

Friendship feels very of its time. While it's set in New York, the story could fit any big city in the western world, and its protagonists are women most women could relate to in some way or another. And, like with Sex and the City, I believe most readers will probably find themselves coming down on the side of one of the main characters more than the other, although of course the best would be a mix of the two.

I personally felt more kinship with Bev, who is stuck in a rut she just can't get out of. While I've never had to go through her particular work situation, I do know what it's like to be going through the motions sometimes. Most of us grow or get ourselves out of that sort of a situation, but Bev has been stuck in it for far too long. She's still a sympathetic character though - making her own way, taking on responsibility for herself, hard-working (most of the time). Even when Sally, who comes into her life by chance and has wanted children for ages, offers her a comfortable life on a silver platter Bev decides to only take minimally, and really work to have the rest.

Amy, on the other hand, well, I didn't really like her, perhaps because I felt Bev was a better developed character who Gould showed growing through the book. I found Amy selfish and immature, and some of her actions were deplorable. The worst ones were where she put herself ahead of Bev, and ahead of their friendship.

But that's the central dilemma of the book - what happens when something so big happens it changes a person and their relationship with their friends? While I didn't like Amy, I thought she was pretty realistic, and her feelings and some of her actions were very human. In other words, she's fallible. Gould is to be commended for the honesty of her characters, who aren't pretty in all their guises, just like people aren't in real life.

Friendship was a pretty quick read, although I did put it down half way through and go and read something else. Initially, I was really caught by the book, but I began to dislike Amy quite a lot, so I took a break. When I went back to the book, I finished it off pretty quickly, and enjoyed it again. While I think Amy got off a little lightly, overall I was satisfied with the conclusion.

What I liked best about Gould's novel is that its focus is female friendships - the only love interests there are brief plot points. That examination of female friendships is rare in our culture these days, so if the popularity of Girls means that more books like Friendship are brought into our lives, that's only a good thing.

How I got this book: From the publisher, Virago. This did not affect my review.

Friendship is out on July 3, 2014.

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