My novel-in-progress, Monkey See, is about the very unlikely friendship that forms between my protagonist, Danior and a spider monkey named Chacho who are drawn together when they take part in a clinical trial. Attempting to ward off Alzheimer’s by enhancing memory, the trial affects them in unexpected ways and they come to realise no one else will ever quite be able to understand them the way they understand each other. Writing it has made me think about other wonderful books which explore friendship.
In Sophie Laguna’s The Choke, Justine is a child being raised in a man’s world of poverty, alcoholism and violence. Her only friend is Michael, a classmate with disabilities who is also a social outcast, and their beautiful friendship is one of the few joys in Justine’s life.
Jenny Ackland’s Little Gods is the story of Olive, a gutsy 12-year-old who believes an older boy has hurt a member of her family. She ropes in her long-suffering friend Peter to help her enact her revenge.
Joan London’s The Golden Age is a gorgeous tale of the friendship that forms between two children in a polio hospital in the 1950s.
Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones explores racism in small-town Australia through the relationship between 13 year-old Charlie Bucktin and his Asian best friend Jeffrey Lu. Charlie & Jeffrey have the best banter!
In Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling, Turtle aka Kibble is a motherless loner with a troubled relationship with her father. When she stumbles across two teenage boys who are lost in the woods*, the friendship that follows puts all their lives at risk. *Also featuring ridiculously excellent banter.
In Jesse Andrew’s hilarious Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, Greg–a dorky Jewish kid—and Earl—a black kid from the wrong side of the tracks—form an unlikely bond over their shared love of obscure cult films and their attempts to remake them. And yes, their banter is second to none.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich is a coming-of-age story of four boys on a Native American reservation who have to grow up fast when a heinous crime is committed against the protagonist’s mother.
The only non-fiction book on my list, Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty is a memoir of her sometimes difficult friendship with writer Lucy Grealey. Clear-sighted and touching on friendship, it is also a wonderful account of the early career of one of my favourite writers.
In Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue Two old friends run a record shop, while their wives deliver babies together. Friendship, business, kids, affairs—how would we get through adulthood without our friends?
Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life is the story of Jude & JB and Willem & Malcolm, who meet at university and remain friends as their careers take off. The friendship is important to all of them, but to orphaned Jude, who had the most traumatic childhood it is possible to imagine, they are a life line.
Books by women 6/10 (happy with that)
Books by writers of colour 2/10 (try harder!)
Cultural cringe count: 4/10 Australian books (could do better)
what are your favourite books about friendship?