Top 10: Literary Friendships

With the International Day of Friendship taking place this weekend (July 30), why not grab a bestie and buckle up for these top 10 friendships in literature?

Top 10 Reads: Literary Friendships. A "Best of the Blog 2023" seal is in the upper right corner.


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10. A friendly duet.

The oral history of the wildly successful play Two Pianos Four Hands, called  Two of the Best in the Neighbourhood (Shillingford Publishing), reveals the thirty-year friendship in music – and in life – of writer Richard Greenblatt and co-creator Ted Dykstra. The pair suffer gruelling hours of practice, exams, disappointment, and eventually, fame – taking their production as far as the US, England, and Japan.

An animated GIF from Disney's The Aristocats, of two kittens playing on a piano.

9. Researchers, friends…and maybe more?

When we meet Noah Lamarck at the beginning of David Bourgeois’s  Full Fadom Five (Baraka Books), his life is a mess. It’s the mysterious invitation to research lost Shakespeare relics extended to himself and his friend, graduate student Cecilia Lines, that could potentially turn things around. But as Noah and Cecilia’s feelings turn from platonic to something else, more than their friendship is at stake when their eccentric patron appears to be less magnanimous than first appeared.

8. Literary frienemies.

In Paul Headrick’s  Losing Shepherd (Signature Editions), Gordon Bridge has it all: a great family, Canadian literary stardom, and a long, fulfilling friendship with fellow writer Taylor Shepherd. It’s a friendship Gordon thinks can stand up to a little professional criticism, so in a review, he pans Taylor’s new, much-anticipated novel. But he miscalculated, on two fronts: Taylor is furious with him, and the review – where he sought to show that critique soared above any personal bonds of friendship – is seriously off-base. As Taylor’s own literary star rises, Gordon’s world starts to fall apart, and he starts a memoir in the hopes of winning his friend – and his life – back.

7. Old friends with new problems.

Rose Addams, the titular character in  Margie Taylor’s new novel (NeWest Press), finds herself at a bit of a turning point as she enters her sixties. Her daughter’s dropped out of school and moved home, her son is being pulled between family and love, and her husband’s taken early retirement. And then, on top of it all, her longtime friends start making all kinds of bad decisions, ones that seem to snowball on top of each other. 

6. Woman’s best friend strikes again.

In her heartwarming memoir  Starter Dog (ECW Press), Rona Maynard details how her and her husband’s rescue mutt Casey adopted her. Reluctant to welcome a dog into their lives after leaving her editor’s position at Chatelaine, Rona instead finds Casey to be a perfect companion, and falls for his winning personality and all of the insight and opportunity he affords her as she gains a new perspective on her world and life.

5. Pen pals, IRL.

For nearly fifty years, poets Molly Peacock and Phillis Levin have maintained an ongoing correspondence about their poetry; one that has spilled over into their own reading and writing habits and other aspects of their personal histories and lives. The book  A Friend Sails in on a Poem (Palimpsest Press) chronicles this miraculous friendship in poetry.

4. Pen pals, historically.

Cora James, the main character of Kimberly Garrett Brown’s novel  Cora’s Kitchen (Inanna Publications) is an aspiring writer in late 1920s Harlem, whose day-to-day realities keep getting in the way of her dreams. Cora strikes up a writing relationship with poet Langston Hughes, and their introspective conversations about writing, Black life, and feminism fuel both Cora’s fire to succeed and the page-turning narrative of this award-winning book.

3. A friendship triangle (or is it quadrangle?) classic.

In this reprint of Shirley Jackson’s 1950 story  A Visit (Biblioasis), Margaret heads to her school friend Carla’s beautiful home for the summer. But when Carla’s brother arrives with a strange friend of his own, tensions arise. Much like her classic story The Lottery, certain innocuous but out-of-place details build into a psychologically stunning ending.


2. Friends new and old.

Playwright Christine Rodriguez brings this sweet story of finding one’s self to life in  Simone, Half and Half (Playwrights Canada Press). Fourteen-year-old Simone is finding her three cultures – Canadian, Québécois, and Trinidadian – at odds with each other, and she starts to see the ramifications of her identity struggle as she’s torn between best friend Sarah’s desire to enter the talent show, and new friends Jay and Vanessa’s community organizing for Black history and culture.

1. Friends long lost.

When seaweed scientist Nabila’s childhood friend Matthew goes missing, she heads to Berlin to try and find him. Menaka Raman-Wilms’s  The Rooftop Garden (Nightwood Editions) oscillates between Nabila’s present-day search for Matthew and scenes from their past, where, as children, they once pretended rising sea levels made their building’s rooftop garden an island. Their paths diverge as they grow older, and when she finds Matthew, Nabila meets a man radically different from the boy she knew.

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