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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 true American classic and a novel whose crusading spirit and memorable characters have passed into literary folklore, To Kill a Mockingbird views the brutality of racism in the Deep South through the eyes of the big-hearted child narrator, Scout.
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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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Throbbing with righteous anger and visceral prose, The Nickel Boys takes the real-life Florida reform school as a jumping off point to explore the tensions inherent in the US Civil Rights movement.
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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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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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A darkly humorous and touching study in grief and companionship, Nunez’s award-winning novel follows a woman who unexpectedly loses her mentor and best friend and inherits his huge, bereaved Great Dane.
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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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Strikingly evoking the heartland of seventeenth-century industrial Lancashire, Stacey Halls’ accomplished debut is a haunting novel of two women struggling to fight against the expectation and superstition of their age.
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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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