Best of Friends

Best of Friends


A dazzling new novel of friendship, identity and the unknowability of other people - from the international bestselling author of Home Fire, winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction

Fourteen-year-old Maryam and Zahra have always been the best of friends, despite their different backgrounds. Maryam takes for granted that she will stay in Karachi and inherit the family business; while Zahra keeps her desires secret, and dreams of escaping abroad.

This year, 1988, anything seems possible for the girls; and for Pakistan, emerging from the darkness of dictatorship into a bright future under another young woman, Benazir Bhutto. But a snap decision at a party celebrating the return of democracy brings the girls' childhoods abruptly to an end. Its consequences will shape their futures in ways they cannot imagine.

Three decades later, in London, Zahra and Maryam are still best friends despite living very different lives. But when unwelcome ghosts from their shared past re-enter their world, both women find themselves driven to act in ways that will stretch and twist their bond beyond all recognition.

Best of Friends is a novel about Britain today, about power and how we use it, and about what we owe to those who've loved us the longest.

Our Review

There are so many layers to Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie, on it's surface it is about a lifelong friendship between two girls, but in reality it covers so many more topics. This cleverly plotted tale had my gripped from beginning to end and I couldn't have stopped reading it even if I wanted to.

The book is set in 1988 during a period of great change for Pakistan, a time period which will have a significant impact on the lives of Zahra and Maryam.  Maryam comes from a privileged background and is secure in her knowledge of who she is and where she belongs, some might call her entitled. Zahra is more aware that her position in the world is more precarious, as is her sense of who she is. To outsiders the friendship seems an unlikely one but the girls pride themselves on knowing everything about each other. 

"Zahra had recently looked up from a dictionary to inform Maryam that what the two of them had with each other was  friendship, and what they had with the other six girls and twenty-two boys in class was merely 'propinquity' - a relationship based on physical proximity." 

Three decades later the women find themselves living in London and living two very different lives at differing ends of the political spectrum. When two ghosts from their past show up it calls everything into question including their friendship. 

I loved how the author captured the fierceness that exists in teenage friendships, the sense that you will always be in each other's lives no matter what. 

"If you moved to Alaska tomorrow, we'd still be best friends, for the rest of our lives." 

I loved the way the friendship between the two characters unravelled at times but then they came back to each other and their shared history. I think for much of the book Maryam is portrayed as the darker of the two characters but Zahra isn't all sweetness and light. 

There are many different themes tackled in this book, not least misogyny, government corruption and a sense of being the other in society. Shamsie tackles each of these subjects in a way that is refreshing and unique. 

At the heart of the book though is always this friendship. 

"Childhood friendship really was the most mysterious of all relationships."

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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