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Emily Gould’s debut novel is a New York tale along the lines of Frances Ha

Emily Gould’s debut novel self-admittedly foregrounds the fleeting and intricate nature of female friendships, set against a backdrop of failed relationships, failed careers, and a cannibal city that threatens to chew up its inhabitants. New York is unglamorous, portrayed with the urbane detachment coined by those who know it best and earn least. Gould herself, a once-Brooklynite of pedigree with a reputation as a confessional blogger who spent time as a contributing editor at Gawker, presents us with a pseudo-triptych of three women who have seemingly missed out on their first and best choices. It’s Frances Ha set five years later, with all the added weight and seriousness of those years, that makes failure five times more real.

Bev has dropped out of grad school, is in debt, and has taken up a part-time job that catapults her into bed with a non-event guy who gets her pregnant. Amy, who was once rising star in the blogosphere, finds herself in a dead-end writing job after a fateful career move strips her of her soon-to-be fame and glory. And finally, Sally lives in upstate New York in seemingly pristine perfection that has stifled her youth and her ambition. The book describes the awkward semi-courtship necessary for close female friendships to cement themselves. Bev and Amy are ‘besties’ whose relationship becomes threatened by the unexpected pregnancy, and the arrival of newcomer Sally. Her role throughout the book serves to stress further what Friendship is determined to portray – the breakdown of relationships and the hardship of New York, devoid of dramatics and intent on stressing the commonplaceness of this new order.

Surprisingly this is not a book for ‘the Gawker generation’. It never tries to shock, even when sometimes one would wish that Gould would return to her hat tricks of the confessional blogger, and give us something hot, messy and fleshy as she did with her collection of essays “And The Heart Says Whatever.” But much like the characters she portrays, who receive rude awakenings from their Peter Pan syndrome, the author too, one senses, has gone through a coming of age.

Friendship is published by Virago and will be in all book stores next month

Marilyn Lee

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