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The 10 Best Friendships in Literature

Celebrate National Friendship Month with these 10 novels that feature the best best friends.

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Everybody thinks of February as the month of romantic love, but it’s the month of platonic love, as well. Though it doesn’t take up three entire aisles in CVS, February is National Friendship Month, so hurrah! Kisses on the cheek and not-too-tight hugs for everyone!

Rather than sending an e-card to all your best friends to thank them for their friendship (which is totally weird), celebrate National Friendship Month with one of the books below. These 10 novels all accurately depict friendship as the complex, tender, wonderful beast it is.

1. Kay, Mary, Dottie, Elinor, Libby, Helena, Priss and Polly in The Group by Mary McCarthy

Before Sex and the City and Girls, there was The Group. In fact, Candace Bushnell actually wrote Sex and the City after her editor suggested she write a “modern-day version of The Group.” But trust me when I say that this 1963 novel is far better thanthe petulant whines of a 30-something sex column writer. Oh, and there are zero sentences that start with the phrase, “Later that day, I got to thinking ….”

The Group details the lives of eight female friends, all from Vassar College’s class of 1933, following them post graduation. Despite their impressive liberal arts educations and their strong ambitions, all the women find themselves lacking direction. (Sounds eerily similar to another series currently on HBO, doesn’t it?) The novel spans seven years, offering an expansive look into the sororal bond of these women as they navigate everything from sexism in the workplace, to marriage, to child-raising, to financial difficulties, to losing their virginity. (Not necessarily in that order.)

2. Sheila and Margaux in How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

After divorcing her husband, Sheila, a 20-something playwright, is introduced to Margaux, a talented painter who instantly inspires her. Heti writes in the prologue of the novel, “I’m sorry, but I’m really glad [Margaux’s] my best friend. If I had known, when I was a baby, that in America there was a baby who was throwing up her hands and saying, first words out of her mouth, Who cares? and that one day she’d be my best friend, I would have relaxed for the next twenty-three years, not a single care in the world.”

The relationship between Sheila and Margaux is not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Heti — who, it’s worth noting, is best friends with artist Margaux Williamson in real life — writes about the balance of best friendship. After all, friendships are unbalanced by nature, and the ability for that friendship to sustain itself has to do entirely with how that balance shifts and evolves.

3. Horatio and Hamlet in Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Good friends stay by you through good times, but best friends stay by you through bad times, and, you know, Hamlet was not really having an awesome time. So it’s a good thing Hamlet had Horatio. It’s Horatio who he trusts with the information that he’s going to pretend to be mad after seeing his father’s ghost. SPOILER ALERT (though, seriously, you should probably know the plot of Hamlet by now): Horatio is also the only one to survive the play, living to tell Hamlet’s story.

There’s a pretty good lesson about friendship here: Your friends are the ones who tell your stories and sing your praises when you’re not there. So, yeah, maybe your best friend did claim to see a ghost, or did try to kill his uncle, or did subtweet his ex at 3 in the morning, but, as the greatest friend on planet Earth, it’s your job to still love and support him.


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