Friendship by Emily Gould: Growing up is hard to do

Friendship Friendship’s a funny old thing: it can last a life time – I’m often envious when my own friends talk about school friends they’re still close to – or it can be short but intense with a multitudes of variations in between. We talk about relationship breakups but not the breakup of a friendship although they can be almost as heartbreaking, and in some cases more so. Emily Gould’s new novel makes no bones about its subject – it’s obvious from the title – but it’s about much more than that. Through the lens of Bev and Amy’s friendship she examines what it’s like to emerge from your twenties in the modern world, still unsure of what to do with your life.

Bev and Amy met when they were both working in publishing – Amy a little defensive of her marginally senor position, Bev determined to make a friend. Bev’s saddled with debt from an unfinished masters degree and an expectation of making a life as a writer, Amy forges ahead writing a gossip blog until a swipe at a celebrity who turns out to be close to her boss brings her own fame and fortune tumbling down. When the novel opens, Bev’s temping and Amy’s working at Yidster, a website whose superrich owners play at running a company. Amy has an artist boyfriend about whose commitment she’s increasingly uncertain while Bev is single. They console each other, messaging constantly through the day keeping each other up to date on the minutiae of their lives and meet frequently. Then everything changes: Bev becomes pregnant after a half-hearted one-night stand with a particularly obnoxious colleague. Decisions must be made – the dynamics of their friendship change irrevocably.

Bev and Amy are immensely appealing and believable characters. Gould writes about them with great affection as they struggle to deal with the enormous change which threatens to engulf the friendship that has been the only sure thing they’ve had to hang on to as they navigated their way through their uncertain twenties. Vignettes woven through their present day travails make clear the closeness of their bond but this is a novel about growing up as much as friendship encapsulated smartly in Bev’s reply when asked if her friends have children: ‘They’re still more in the… behaving like infants themselves stage’. Gould has a talent for nailing the more vacuous aspects of modern life in pithy one-liners coupled with a fine line in sharp social observations – the childless Sally spots ‘a rosy perfect baby from the rosy perfect baby dispensary in central Brooklyn, where responsible thirty-three-year-old women went to be issued babies from some sort of giant bin’ . It’s a smart, funny book with something serious to say, and it has a lovely ending. Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable way of brightening up what turned out to be a traditional wet and windy British late summer Bank Holiday Monday – sorry Scotland but I gather you had a lovely day even if you did have to work through it.

4 thoughts on “Friendship by Emily Gould: Growing up is hard to do”

  1. I really want to read this but the fact that the central issue mirrors something that happened to me at that stage in my life might make it harder going than you found it. Nevertheless, it is definitely going on the library list.

    1. I hope it doesn’t dredge up difficult memories, Alex. It may help to know that Gould manages an undoubtedly painful situation with a relatively light touch but without trivialising it.

  2. Oooh your site is dangerous today – another I really must add to the tbr. Emily Gould is a familiar name but I can’t remember any of her previous books – has she had a big hit I should be recalling?

    1. She has a set of essays out that has been much talked about and she reviews widely but I think this is her first novel. Hoping for more like Friendship.

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