Thursday, 26 February 2015

Penelope Lively on Friendship

In one of her early works Penelope Lively wrote:

'Friendship is the love that is ignored; people don't theorise about friendship, write poetry about it. It just goes quietly along, sustaining. Passion spends itself ... but friendship is always there. Like a good marriage, it survives attack. ' (Perfect Happiness)
(We know that plenty of good relationships survive attack, not only marriage, but it was written in 1983.)

She later goes on:

'There are days which succeed one another, and in which we do what has to be done and in which time runs level; passing, simply, bringing with it pleasure and irritation and satiety and tiredness and all those ordinary furnishings of life. And then rarely, and unpredictably, there are fragments and passages from days which are of another order altogether. They are beyond and without chronology; they hang together, suspended, possessions for all time. To be called up out of darkness.'

I had some days like this in November last year when 7 of us - women who had met at one workplace or another and stuck together ever since - took ourselves off to a luxury apartment block on the waterfront at Metung Victoria, to spend 4 days exploring the lakes, bird-watching, walking, talking, eating, sleeping and laughing. There was a lot of laughing. Helpless, tears-down-the-face, can't-speak kind of laughing. None of which would be more than vaguely amusing in the recounting. But as we prepare to head off again, Port Fairy this time, with 2 more in tow, it got me thinking about which books of fiction best portray friendships. Hundreds for children (Remember Bridge to Terabithia? Have you recovered from that ending yet?) some for men, but women?
I thought of these, below, and they are probably in order of my loving them.

But surely there are more recent ones that haven’t sprung to my mind?

I don’t read much non-fiction but maybe the pickings are better there, and I plan to begin with Ann Patchett’s memoir about her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy, Truth and Beauty: A Friendship. It's been out a while and I've loved all of Ann Patchett's fiction so don't know why I haven't got to it before this. Watch this space....


  1. Thanks Gaby for even more reading suggestions. I'm always surprised at the generosity of people who spend hours crafting and posting their ideas on the web for the entertainment and edification of the rest of us. You have taken everyday thinking up a notch to include literature and link ideas in new ways. We could just yarn on about what a precious funny night we had but to link it to these expressive quotes makes it a more poetic treasure.

  2. Friends, laughter and the sound of the sea. How much better can it get?


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