The Wonders of Female Friendships in Literature

I saw the female-led reboot of Ghostbusters last night and I got emotional. Yes, I laughed hysterically and yes, the movie was over-the-top goofy, but something about it pulled at my emotions in a way I really didn’t expect. When Kate McKinnon whips out her homemade ‘ghostbusting’ equipment and kicks some serious ghost butt while looking like a total (quirky) badass, I wanted to cry. Happy tears, of course. The cast was diverse, crushed stereotypes or used them to point out their intrinsic flaws and, perhaps most importunately, there was solid female friendship. Friendship that deals with helping each other out, not competing for work or romance.

So this is a book site; how will I relate what I’m saying about Ghostbusters to literature? Like in movies and TV shows, books by or about women are often about romance or female competition. The Twilight series, Gossip Girls, even The Girl on The Train, which I loved but had absolutely no female camaraderie in the story; none of these books focus on the beauty that is female friendship. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with romance, don’t misunderstand me! There’s nothing wrong with women competing with one another either, because it happens in the real world. 

Yet books about female friendship where women talk to one another about things other than men or romance and aren’t extremely jealous of one another are so important. It is empowering for women to read about strong female friendships where women are there to support each other. One of the best examples of recent literature about two female friends is Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. Her four-part series follows two girls, who are incredibly smart and thoughtful, as they navigate their difficult social environments. Ferrante’s work has been praised for its accurate representation of the incredibly close bond between women. They struggle, they get mad, they neglect one another, they laugh together, they cry together; they are true friends and it is absolutely stunning to read.   

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While a woman’s relationship with their romantic partner is important and undoubtedly an interesting topic for a novel, it is not always the definitive one popular romance would lead you to believe. The relationship between friends is incredible, if not for its dynamics then for how it too often goes unexamined.  

Here are a few more books that portray the astonishing greatness of female friendships:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 


They may be sisters, but Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy have one of the greatest bonds in literature.

Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta


Spiotta captures the struggles that female friends face with honesty, and shows that despite any issues, their love for one another power through. 

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

Two teenage girls, considered weird outcasts, have one of the best friendships you’ll read about. Nothing is more inspiring than blunt teens who can get through the awkward, often cruel period of high school together, and remain best friends. 

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See


This novel, which takes place in 19th century China, involves a secret language that only women understand and a secret friendship that helps two young women get through life in an oppressive society.  

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu


You don’t read about women in the army too often. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid is about three women who graduate high school, join the IDF (Isreali Defense Force), and navigate life together. 

The Girls of Slender Means by Murial Spark


Women are varied. They are spunky, hilarious, serious, wonderful, and destructive (just to name a few). Spark’s witty novel is wonderful; you will fall in love with the ‘Ladies of Slender Means’ (just as they fall in love with one another).

Featured image courtesy of The Mary Sue.