Friendship, What's On Your Bookshelf?

Female Friendships in Life & Literature

I’ve been thinking a great deal about female friendships recently — the ebb and flow, the inexplicable ties that bind, the diversity — and how each relationship (despite its length or size) adds to who we become — often without us realizing it.

While reflecting on friendship, I began to notice this topic explored in what I was currently reading (even though I had not selected my reading materials for this purpose). First, there was Marsha Ingrao’s ‘Socializing Is It Worth Your Time?‘ where she encouraged and received thought-provoking responses on the broad topic of socialization. One of these responses was by Suzanne@Picture Retirement, who shared, “sometimes I need to share my thoughts with another woman who understands me.” To me, this captures the heart of female relationships in a nutshell.

Inspired by the work of Erin Falconer, Kathy Gottberg pondered, “we know having friends as we age is important, but is there ever a time to break up?” This is a difficult question, but one that many of us have faced. And just yesterday, Kate Crimmins pondered the duration of friendships.

As often happens, when I finished my blog reading and picked up the TBR books waiting patiently beside me, the same theme continued. Despite an overworked writing style and some OTT situations, Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral makes you want to call your friends, have a long, Big Chill* conversation, and tell them what they mean to you.

The Pull of the Stars is deliberately slow and precise. Here, vividly drawn female characters connect during difficult times, break the rules, inspire and make a long-lasting difference. The results are tender, intimate and heartbreaking.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine was also a book club read. Although not my favourite book (I know, I know….what’s wrong with me?), it spotlights loneliness and the healing power of platonic friendship.

In Shirley (which our Classics Bookclub has just finished), Brontë has brilliantly captured the transforming power of female friendship. The reader is given a front-row seat as the novel’s key protagonists, timid Caroline Helstone, and fearless Shirley Keeldar, gain strength from each other, which helps them grow and evolve.

Fiction allows us to explore a range of moods, emotions and experiences from a different perspective. In so doing, it can deepen our understanding of ourselves and our relationships.

On Their Own Terms focuses less on relationships and more on fiercely independent, courageous women who challenged norms and left an incredible legacy to Vancouver Island. Their refusal to let hardship deter their dreams is a much-needed reminder, especially during these difficult times.

Finally, Peace By Chocolate was my WOTY reading for this month. It also focuses on the power of friendship, family, community, perseverance, resilience and faith. It is a brilliant reminder of what can be achieved when we selflessly reach out to one another. (Thank you for the recommendation, Natalie the Explorer).

While writing this post, I received this quote (via Messenger) from a friend who I have not chatted with for a while but who ironically picked up on this very same theme. It’s as if the Universe is trying to send me a message!

* Oh, and just in case any of you missed The Big Chill (seriously?), here is a quick clip. Hopes, dreams, reality and loss all tie together with the illuminating energy of deep friendship.

So, what’s been on your bookshelf lately? And if you’ve read any great books celebrating the power of female friendship, please share them too!

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90 thoughts on “Female Friendships in Life & Literature”

  1. Hi Gorgeous,

    Short note here: I cannot open your link from the email and I don’t see it on “Reader”

    Maybe my computer?…………or a link issue.

    XOXOXOXOXOXO See you Sat. a.m.

    >

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    1. Thanks, Erica – It wasn’t you…it was me…or WordPress. I had this post scheduled to publish at 3 pm today but for some reason it published at 7 am. I pulled the post down right away so that the timing lined up with my cohosts. Another WP mystery! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love everything about this post! I couldn’t open it from the email either…it gave me the dreaded “404 error”. Anyways, I went straight to your website and it worked, so all good!
    Some wonderful book recommendations – going on my TBR list. Thank you, Donna!

    Deb

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Deb – My apologies about the 404 error. Hopefully others will be insightful like you and head straight to this website if they also receive an error message.
      I’m glad that you were inspired by some of the book recommendations. Did you recognize yourself in this post? You are definitely there! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful read to start the day with this Donna! I loved all your reflections, your readings and your generosity of spirit. Thanks for another great post for our #Whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge, we are all so different in our approaches and that’s what makes our friendship work 🙂

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    1. Hi, Debbie – I also love how each of our WOYBS posts are so different. Even our reflections on the Brontë books is each quite unique. Similar core values but different ways of expressing them. That sounds like a brilliant recipe for long lasting friendship to me!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fantastic post, Donna! My mother always told me I’d be blessed if I had one true friend in my life. I’ve been blessed four times over with dear friendships that have grown over forty years and one fifty-plus years. As for The Big Chill…eek! One of my all-time favorite movies!

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  5. I love how when the universe is trying to get us to pay attention, it throws all these serendipitous messages in our path. I adored this post and am grateful for the female friends I have in my life. And, you’re not alone – I couldn’t finish Eleanor Oliphant…

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  6. Donna,
    I’m reading this post while Helen is having dinner with her gal pals. I can relate to the topic. She loves her friends and they form the foundation of the support she needs at this time. I’ve followed your blog for a long time and know how much joy you get from fun-filled times with your friends. May they go on well into the future.
    Loved “The Big Chill” and have been to the house where it was filmed (Beaufort, SC). Gotta see it again! Have a great weekend! Joe

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  7. The only title I can think of from my recent reading that discusses the power of female friendships is Kieran Millwood Hargrave’s The mercies. However, it’s probably not the kind of uplifting book your looking for! Historical and rather grim, but I liked it.

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  8. Thank you, Donna, for sharing your recent reads. I’m glad you enjoyed Peace by Chocolate. One title from my recent reading that demos the power of female friendships is Beth Morrey’s The Love Story of Missy Carmichael. The main character is in her 70s and the story is a good addition to the ‘Socializing: Is It Worth Your Time?’ discussion and food for thought. I’d recommend it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m reading this after spending the morning with one of my good female friends whom I hadn’t seen in about 6 months. We had such fun talking and laughing and I left thinking how much we need friendships like this. Thanks for sharing these books, Donna. I think I’d like to read The Pull of the Stars. 🙂

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  10. This is a great read, Donna. I love the way you’ve reflected on friendship, especially female friendship. You made me think of my beautiful friend Karen. We have nothing at all in common except books but we can sit for hours and hours and talk non stop. I must tell her what she means to me and how much joy she brings to my life. As does #whatsonyourbookshelf bring me joy every month. Thanks for providing this space for me to immerse myself in books

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    1. Hi, Jennifer – I greatly appreciate your thoughtful and kind comment. Friendships where we seem to have nothing in common can be so powerful. Often, our core values underneath are more similar than they appear on the surface. Your comment also reminded me of taking a reading holiday with friends, where much of the time is spent reading and then getting together for meals and discussion on what was read! 😀

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  11. I loved that last quote about friends being like sisters for us Donna – I just wrote that exact sentiment in my friend’s birthday card – she’s like the sister I never had and I’m grateful for that relationship (and the many other female friends in my life) every day. I think I could live without friends, but it’s so nice not to have to isn’t it?

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  12. Love this Donna and yesterday I listened to a radio broadcast with author Patti Miller who has written her latest book a memoir ‘True Friends’. Patti discusses how friendships are a form of love and not written about often in this context. In her memoir, Patti writes about ‘friend break-ups’. It was a very interesting conversation and ties in well with your theme for this month’s WOYBS? I’m so grateful for our strong friendship despite the distance. We are certainly enjoying experiences together including co-hosting this link up! Such an interesting topic which as always you have written beautifully. x

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  13. I love books that explore relationships and while I read a lot about friendships the ones that really draw me in are the sisters and mother/daughter ones… weird because I am close to both my sisters and my mother but those dynamics and the push and pull of them just fascinate me.

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    1. I agree that mother-daughter and sister-sister dynamics are fascinating and can be extremely complicated. I am also very close to my mother and sister and am very grateful for this.
      Thank you for joining us at WOYBS. It is greatly appreciated!

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  14. I’ve been musing on friendship lately too. At this point one of my concerns about blogging is that I do it to make friends, but WP terminology and the people who comment on my blog posts tell me I have/they are *followers.* I’d like to think I’m part of jovial group of women, a friend who’ll be included, yet the longer I blog the more I have to wonder…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, sometimes you just gotta ignore WP terminology (and other WP inconsistencies).:D
      I’m not sure what I expected from blogging when I began – but I never expected to make deep personal connections and friendships through blogging. I am incredibly grateful that this has happened.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Laurie – That was my conclusion as well. Friendships do tend to ebb and flow through our lives — but each and every one of them influences in ways that we may never actually realize. Thank you for joining us at WOYBS – I greatly appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. As always, Donna, more than just WOYBS. I have added Peace by Chocolate and True Friends by Patti Miller (thanks to Kate Crimmins’ blog post) to my to-be-read list. Deb had commented on Kate’s blogpost that “being considered my friend is a life sentence” and I’m coming to grips with my definition of and needs for friendship in the last quarter of my life. There has been a definite shift in my relationships in these pandemic times most notably with one who I often called my sister/friend. The turning point was how I felt after our conversations which failed to address the ideological differences. The weekly contacts faded and eventually the shift was noted. What happens next remains to be seen. I’ve settled into not knowing. I know that community is key to my existence and that community is made up of friends and family.

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    1. Hi, Mona – This comment very much tugged at my heartstrings. I greatly admire you settling into the unknown with your longterm friendship. It’s something that many of us face but not always as gracefully as you. Sending warm thoughts your way.

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  16. Forgot to add that I just finished Willie Nelson’s Letters to America with Turk Pipkin. One of his letters is “Dear Road” with a line from his song – the life I love is making music with my friends. I also have Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman; I’m sure the sister relationship will have something to say about friendship.

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  17. Donna, I have always enjoyed books with strong female leads and women bonding. It seems that most of the stories I like connect the main characters through some kind of adversity -The Secret Life of Bees, The Giver of Stars, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Help.

    I am exposed to many women through my various ‘groups’, but very few of them have become true friends. A common interest isn’t always enough to grow and sustain a relationship. I think the disconnect between IRL and what we learn from fiction is the degree to which we are willing to tend connections and help them grow into meaningful relationships.

    Thank you for the mention. I enjoyed writing to Marsha’s prompt. Socializing, friendships and building relationships are intriguing subjects. Thanks for continuing the conversation here on WOYB. Excellent post with lots of good books suggestions. I read Kathy’s post, but I haven’t visited Kate’s and will do that later today.

    As to Elianor Elliphant – I read it a while ago, but I do recall an overall good opinion of the book. The author took on a heavy subject and did it well, in my opinion. However, I can see how the dark element of the story might have been off-putting for some readers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Suzanne – I loved both The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Help. I really should read them again. You are right in your assumption about Eleanor Olipant. The dark storyline did not sit well with me. Also, my inability to laugh even when I knew it was intended to be funny. (My husband often swears that I have had a humour bypass.) 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi, Donna;
    This isn’t on my bookshelf. It isn’t a book at all, but it ties in with the theme of your post. I watched “Turning Red,” a new Disney movie, with my grandchildren. The lead character, 13-year-old girl, gets through some growing pains with the help of her best friends.
    Young or not so young, friends help 🙂

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  19. There is something so wonderful about female friendships. I’m not sure that many men have the same connection with their male friends. I think that same special quality (not sure what the right word for it is) is part of the reason why women join book clubs, mahjong groups, and sewing circles, etc. – we love the connections, conversations, and acceptance they offer.

    The Big Chill is one of my favorite movies… it’s hard to believe how young the cast was. I also read Eleanor Oliphant for my book club… and actually enjoyed it.

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    1. Hi, Janis – I suspect that most male friendships are very different from female ones. Many years ago, my husband and I regularly hung out with a couple from our neighbourhood. One day, the two husbands golfed while us two wives did lunch and some hiking. My friend shared that there had been lots of horrible emotional upheaval in their family. When my husband returned home and we were alone, I brought up the subject. He knew absolutely nothing about it. When I asked him what the two of them had talked about all day, he replied ‘golf.’ 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I love this! Female friendships have been so important in my life especially since our move to Texas. Today I enjoyed coffee with a group of friends from yoga class, where we shared lots of laughs, discussed current events (we have differing views, and that is okay), and shared a lot of love! ❤

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  21. Hi Donna, I am so glad you and many others have your passion for reading…I used to be like that a long time ago. However, I am passionate about learning so non-fiction is more my fave right now. I do some reading, and listening at the same time. Right now, I have Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart on the go, and the audible version of her narrating it. It’s good for me to look and listen to take it in. Thanks for sharing all about your connections via literature. Denyse.

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  22. Hi Donna, You have such a great way of tying in the books you are reading with your themes. And yes, women’s friendships cross the boundaries with such important issues in our lives I am not surprised that all of your books relate in one way or another. And as you say, it shows how important it is for us to reach out to each other and benefit from our friendships. ~Kathy

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  23. Thanks for the mention, Donna. Friendships are so important. I don’t have a great way to end them. They just lapse for lack of effort most of the time. Friendships require a lot of time either spending physical time, talking, or chatting as we do through our blogs. But even blog friendships lag if we only wait for friends to visit our blogs. Everything must be mutual. There are a few persistent people in the world who pursue when there is no following, and maybe we’ve all done that occasionally, but friendships definitely lag. Even when you reconnect and pick things up again, they usually hit a snag and die back down unless there is a mutual effort from all parties. My WOYB is part of my post for Weekend Coffee Share. Thanks for hosting this challenge.

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      1. How are you going to follow it up? It is too important to leave it. We need more friendships in the world. If everyone could know the joy of blogging and meeting people around the world, it would be a more peaceful, safer place. No one want to harm a place where their friends live. Maybe this is our small part in bringing about world peace.

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  24. Such a great post!
    And I never watched The Big Chill and just might need to add that to my watch list! (Thanks for the trailer) and nice theme here with the maya Angelou quote on sisters/friends.

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      1. I have heard of it a lot and just asked my hubs and he said he saw it but does not remember too much about it – so keep you posted.
        Also, I have a bookshelf post to share for this month – will have that ready to go soon

        🙂

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  25. Love this post. The books look and sound mighty. And it is true. Women friends give us the anchors we need.
    And I too had opening this post issue, but got in through the home page.

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  26. Because we are all such great friends, I, too ignored the silly error message and simply clicked your heading and read the post. No to be deterred, Donna. I love your excerpts from other bloggers, Marsha and Kathy, and cherish all these friendships we have as women. Yes, we do understand each other and a sisterhood, as Maya explains, transcends all.

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  27. ‘Each friend brings something unique to our lives. It’s often something that I had never contemplated before. Almost like a new movie or book. Each of us is our own story. I thank everyone for sharing theirs on WP and in person.

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  28. I tried a few days back to read this post Donna, but it was not available – I was worried, but today is the day I CAN respond! We were having internet connectivity problems a few days back but now restored. (Glad to see one or 2 others had same problem, not just me). And, while I say ‘not just me’ it makes me think of the times when I feel low and envious of others who seem to float along, I remember that this is not true. We all feel low at times, and if we don’t pick that up among our friends, then books show us, thankfully! Sometimes I think books are my greatest friends xx

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    1. Hi, Susan – I’m so sorry about the computer glitch. It wasn’t your computer, it was mine! Thank you for your perseverence in returning. Your comment brings great insight. So often we can’t help but think that everybody else’s life is running along smoothly when our own keeps hitting snags. Instagram, Facebook and other Social Media add to this (dis)illusion. I agree that true friends and books can show us the way. I hope that all is going well for you.

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  29. Hi Donna – I’ve been ‘debating’ what to write … and to find some literary connections – which I have … apart from the Bloomsbury set. I lost my best friend over 20 years ago … but times move on – here I really have two – one down here, and one near Milton Keynes (ex SA) who entrusted me to be her daughter’s godmother – what a boon that has been – they are both incredible. I don’t tend to bother others with my challenges – I can cope and it’s just me … I know when a breakdown is near … and it’s not now, and that one I pulled through – the family didn’t connect to the situation at all. Very independent soul here …

    I came across Alice B Toklas (1877 – 1967) – who was Gertrude Stein’s “secretary-companion” … for many years they lived together in France. Toklas cooking, while Stein was writing – memorialised in Stein’s most famous book ‘The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas’. Stein (1874 – 1946)

    Long before Julia Child discovered French cooking – Alice was sampling local dishes, collecting recipes, and cooking for writers, artist, and expats who lived in Paris between the wars.

    Her recipes and notes included many French recipes, along with … ‘what are perhaps the earliest instructions for haschich fudge’ !!

    These came about at the time of my finding out about Diana Kennedy – and I still intend to write about them … I did sort of base my WEP ‘Grave Mistake’ back in Oct 2020 on their story … the post will come (sometime!) … but you have the details here … cheers Hilary

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    1. This is a very powerful and insightful comment, Hilary. It makes me feel like we have met, and chatted, in person. You also are a very compelling book reviewer. This is the second time that I have ordered a book based on your recommendation — this time The Autobiography of Alice Toklas.

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      1. Thanks Donna – they are both fascinating characters. Yes I’d have loved to have met when I was out in Canada … perhaps, but unlikely (sadly) … just enjoy the book – my eyes are being opened in all directions through the blog. Cheers Hilary

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  30. What a wonderful post on friendship and the importance of friendship in good books. I notice how the main (female) character in most of the books I read have a friend to rely on, get advice from, and to cry and laugh with. I just finished reading The German Midwife, and the main character gets through horrible deprivation because of female friendship. Reading this, I realized that both main characters in my fiction books (The Right Wrong Man and Twin Desires) have a good female friend who helps them “make it” through life’s challenges. Bravo to you for this post! And look how we friends have met each other and gathered in the blogosphere. I’m so grateful for friends like you.

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  31. Oh The Big Chill was one of my favourite films of all time – mostly because of the music but also that feel good feeling of a group of friends that have a drawcard to be together. Not often and not always easy but a bond nevertheless. Lovely to hear and see the trailer after all these years.
    Regarding your topic: I think girls are lucky in that instead of running to take an anti depressant or some substance to quell anxiety – a coffee with a girlfriend can work more wonders on mood, more than any drug! And no side effects!
    I am reading Seeing by Jose Saramago – a brilliant but hard to read at first book translated from Portuguese about democracy in a fictional place. Interesting scenario. Recommended by the blogger, Equinoxio.

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    1. Hi, Amanda – I just had a girlfriend say what you’ve written above — coffee with a girlfriend can quell anxiety better than many antiddepressants. Thank you for the recommendation of ‘Seeing by Jose Saramago.’ I’ll keep a lookout for it.

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