“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” Wise words from Mark Twain, and a sentiment we couldn’t agree with more.
Following on from that, given their vital importance in our lives, it’s little wonder that so many magnificent books explore friendship relationships in all their varied, complex forms. Some strangers enter our lives as rays of light we instinctively sense will transform us. In the words of a wonderstruck Winnie the Pooh, “I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.” Such seminal encounters may well result in the kind of lifelong friendship Alice Walker describes in The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart: “How precious it was to be able to know another person over many years. There was an incomparable richness in it”.
Then there are the best buddies you’d do anything for, and they for you, as adorably explained in Charlotte’s Web: “Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing”. (Anyone else seem to have a little something in their eye?!). Jane Austen expresses a similar sentiment in Northanger Abbey: “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends”.
Friends are also the people who truly get us, who remain steadfast when the chips are down, and piece us back together when we break, as beautifully expressed by Maya Angelou in Beloved: “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”
We’ll end with more wise words on the subject, this time from Isabel Allende: “True friendship resists time, distance, and silence”. Given that we haven’t been able to see much of our mates for the past year, this feels especially poignant right now, and full of truths to take heart from. The same can be said of many books in the collection that follows - from uplifting stories of finding solace in a new social circle, to life-affirming accounts of community spirit, to riveting reflections from lifelong friends.