Author: Lisa Ireland
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
The Art of Friendship is a book that I’m sure all of us can relate to. A book that will resonate and touch everyone who reads it.
Lisa Ireland is an Australian author of contemporary women’s fiction whom I only discovered when The Shape of Us was released last year. I devoured The Art of Friendship in a couple of days and really enjoyed it, then life got in the way and the review sat here waiting for a quiet minute.
The friends we make as children can be some of the closest bonds we share, you see each other through so many of life’s hurdles that come with growing up and you feel like these are going to be the friendships that last a lifetime. For a range of reasons that isn’t always the case. Sometimes there’s a fight, or families move and distance becomes an issue, sometimes there’s a feud and sometimes it’s a slow drift, you don’t notice the chasm widening until you can’t see each other over the other side. It’s a natural progression with life but that doesn’t always make it easy to deal with.
In the lead up to reading The Art of Friendship I saw and heard quite a bit about the inspiration for the story. There’s a note from Lisa to readers on the media release, it’s posted on her blog and has been published other places online.
Friendship is an extremely important part of life, I want to say for us as wives and mothers but it’s not just that. It’s important for all of us because a close and supportive friendship, even better a group friends, makes for a great support network. You don’t have to agree on everything, you don’t have to have everything in common but you have to know that someone will always have your back. In the new world of social media, cyber bullying and shaming (I’m going to generalise because there’s always someone being shamed for something) it’s really easy to start feeling alone.
The friendships we make when we are young feel like they will last forever; if you can make it through your teens together you can weather any friendship storm, but it doesn’t always work like that.
Lisa Ireland takes a look at these lifelong friendships with Kit and Libby, they met as 11 year olds when Libby moved in across the road from Kit. The two girls couldn’t be more different, from their outlooks to their family situations. Libby was able to make a friend and have someone to spend the holidays with before starting at her new school. It meant she didn’t walk into her new school knowing no-one and she had a friend in her class.
The end of primary school cemented their friendship and it was able to withstand the pressure of separate high schools and moves to different suburbs. They were able to keep in constant contact through letters and phone calls before moving onto emails and skype as technology improved. Libby moved to Sydney young and the two have remained the best of friends, spending time together every year and keeping up to date on what’s happening. Their lives have taken very different directions but their friendship has remained strong.
A new job for Libby’s husband offers the opportunity for them to return to Melbourne and both Kit and Libby are overjoyed. They will finally be able to catch up for coffee whenever and make up for the years they’ve lived so far apart. It doesn’t matter that their lives have taken very different paths, they are practically family.
The Art of Friendship is a book that explores the ways in which we protect our friendships over long distances, we are able to share an edited image of our lives, we can gloss over the scratches and ignore the dents. It’s not that easy to paper over the cracks when you are in close proximity and spending a lot of time together. It’s a story that makes us look at our friendships and evaluate why some stand test the time and why others sometimes fade by the wayside.
I think one of the most fundamental, and important, differences between Libby and Kit is that Kit was never fazed what anyone thought but Libby wanted approval, she wanted to be liked. As differences go that one is pretty major and it is certainly breeding ground for animosity.
Libby and Kit are our protagonists and they are surrounded by a substantial cast. Cam, Libby’s husband, has won a position that sees him move the family into a gated community as a perk of the job. The house is stunning, fully furnished and decorated, and all of the company executives spend a lot of time together. The exec wives seem nothing like what Libby or Kit is used to which opens up a lot of superficial judgement.
Lisa Ireland has beautifully navigated the minefield that can be friendship, the challenges and the areas that become hotly contested.
The emotions are palpable and even though I wasn’t a fan of some of these women I ended being able to relate on some level at some point to each of them. Libby and Kit are the main focus so in a lot of ways we see the other women through their eyes, even though the story is written in the third person. It isn’t until Libby starts to get to know them properly that we see more than the image they portray to the world.
Heartbreaking, real and tricky situations are tackled by Ireland in The Art of Friendship and we start to see that it’s not always who has been your friend the longest but who really sees you, and for a friendship to stand the test sometimes it needs to adapt to the changes in the friends. What we need from our friends at fifteen is very different to what we need at forty-five, the battles in which we need them to have our back are going to be very different and the secrets we need them to keep will be worlds away from those we kept as teens.
There’s a lot to be said about keeping the friends we had as children; they remember the daggy hair cuts, the first kisses, the heartbreak and the family dynamics. At the same time, the friends we make as adults can only formulate their opinions on who we are now; they don’t have the memories of questionable decisions and the mistakes we’d prefer to forget.
Ireland reminds us that sometimes our friendships last and sometimes they fade away, sometimes they go out with a bang and sometimes they change so that the shared histories survive and the friendship remains precious but the priority changes with new stages of life. All of our true friendships are important and should be cherished because with big changes in our lives we see our friendships a little more clearly.
I would wholeheartedly recommend The Art of Friendship to every woman. It’s an important read, an insightful look at friendship and a reminder that holding onto negativity is going to come back and bite you eventually.
The Art of Friendship is book #22 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.
Thanks to Pan Macmillan 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading The Art of Friendship so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below. I can not wait to hear what our readers think.