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Friendship in Fiction: 'Tell me your company, and I’ll tell you who you are'

Posted on 19th January 2021 by Anna Orhanen
Aristotle called it 'one soul in two bodies', Coleridge 'the sheltering tree'. Jane Austen declared it 'the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love', whilst Maya Angelou compared it to trying to be a rainbow in someone's cloud. Whatever definition we give to friendship, it's always worth celebrating. From best-loved classics to exciting fresh reads, we've gathered together some brilliant novels that explore the varied ways friendship can enrich and shape one's life – and one's person. Indeed, as Don Quixote's loyal sidekick Sancho Panza proverbially puts it, 'Tell me your company, and I’ll tell you who you are'.
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A quietly profound novel that celebrates ordinary acts of kindness and gently compels us to regard others – and even ourselves – a little differently, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a winning tribute to friendship that has become one of the most beloved novels of the past ten years.
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Both an utterly unique exercise in dystopian fiction and a powerful portrayal of friendship at its most intimate, Never Let Me Go follows three students at the woozily pleasant Hailsham School as their preordained futures begin to unfold.
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Tracking the lives and loves of a dozen British women through generations and social classes, Girl, Woman, Other weaves a distinctive, illuminating tapestry of modern British life.
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The opening novel of Ferrante’s acclaimed Neapolitan Quartet, My Brilliant Friend charts two best friends’ journey into adulthood in post-war Italy with great emotional depth and luminous storytelling.
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From the author of the beloved The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry comes a heartwarming tale of human connection, creativity and collaboration as two children who meet in a hospital go on to pursue their dreams and identities through the production of video games.
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A bittersweet delight about the grumpiest man in the world and the community that thaws his heart, Backman’s bestseller is a perfect blend of wit, warmth and poignant prose.
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Utterly hilarious and deeply affecting, Coe’s paean to the pop culture and politics of 1970s Birmingham focuses on a group of teenagers attempting to navigate their way through the vicissitudes of the decade.
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Vengeful swans, boring landmarks and impenetrable mazes all get hilarious vignettes in Jerome’s timeless tale of a trio of lovable wastrels on a jaunt down the Thames.
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Focusing on a quartet of graduates as they embrace the seemingly limitless possibilities of New York City futures, A Little Life descends into a dark and involving tale of toxic relationships and the vicious scars of childhood.
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The dynamics of friendship dissected with characteristic insight and heartbreaking poignancy by the iconic author of Beloved, as two young girls raised in poverty are reunited years later amidst enmity and buried secrets.
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Two couples' relationships become messily entangled in this mordantly funny debut that established Rooney as the formidable new voice of a generation.
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Deliciously addictive and entertaining, Moriarty's bestselling novel of three women, escalating crises and heart-in-mouth tragedy is page-turning reading of the highest order.
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The mother of the Western novel, Cervantes’s ever-green parody of knightly romance maps the colourful adventures of Don Quixote and his faithful servant Sancho Panza as they strive to perform acts of valour in sixteenth-century Spain.
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An elegiac meditation on nature, loss and the passing of time, Carr’s classic novella is a moving account of two men trying to reclaim the peace and contentment they knew before the Great War.
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A hilarious and feelgood tribute to friendship, the opening instalment of the Lumberjanes graphic novel series centres on a quintet of rad teenage girls at a very unusual summer camp.
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Queenie Jenkins’ life seems to be steadily spiralling out of control in Candice Carty-Williams luminous debut, which is by turns hilariously funny, dramatic and tender, with a heroine to root for.
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Exploring the relationship between two bereaved men amidst the physical and emotional carnage of the West Bank, Apeirogon is a masterpiece of characterisation and subtle political commentary.
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From the author of The Kite Runner comes a heartfelt saga about Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women whose friendship shines with hope and humanity against the backdrop of war and destruction.
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Set during San Francisco's Pride Week, Levithan's warm-hearted and adorable novel is built upon the delightful platonic relationship between Mark and Kate, two queer teenagers navigating the joys and heartaches of first love.
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