Wednesday, July 23, 2014

book review: Friendship by Emily Gould

The backstory: I've been a fan of Emily Gould for years, and I've recently enjoyed her essays in Goodbye to All That and MFA vs. NYC, both of which share themes with the characters in this novel.

The basics: Friendship is mostly the story of two young women in New York, Bev and Amy. The two share narration with Sally, an older more successful married woman trying to have a baby.

My thoughts: I adored the first two chapters of this novel, as Bev and Amy each introduced the reader to their worlds. When the action shifts to Sally in chapter three, the book takes a different turn. It was easy to guess how Sally might fit into this novel, and I was along for the ride. Except Sally doesn't appear again for quite some time. The placement of the third chapter struck me as odd. Unfortunately, as much as I loved a lot of parts of this novel, I kept running into issues like the third chapter where I pondered why Gould made some of her choices.

As a reader, I like to be transported. For me, it doesn't matter if I'm transported by language, plot, character, or some combination of the three. Friendship transported me with all three, but all thee elements also had me reading more like a critic at times. I was deconstructing Gould's choices and offering suggestions as though I were editing the novel. Overall, my reading experience was somewhat disjointed.

Favorite passage: "I guess I'm talking about this weird vapidity that women seem to aspire to," Amy said. "This kind of Us magazine editorial voice that infects people's actual conversations and lives. Just fetishizing...children and domesticity and making it seem like they are the goals of women's lives, the only legitimate goals women's lives can have."

The verdict: While I loved the premise, characters, writing and set-up of this novel, I had issues with one major storyline. It struck me as contrived rather than authentic, and it took me emotionally out of the story as a reader and left me questioning Gould's choices. I couldn't get past this awkward plot device, even as I adored Gould's writing and the characters. There is much to love in this novel, and I'm enormously excited for Gould's next one, but ultimately one major storyline and one curious structural choice took this novel from a brilliant one to a flawed, but quite enjoyable novel with moments of brilliance.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 273 pages
Publication date: July 1, 2014
Source: purchased

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Friendship from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Follow Emily Gould on Twitter.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this! I wasn't wowed by her essay in MFA vs. NYC, so I've been avoiding Friendship. The reviews I've read all concur - very contrived plot.

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