Every woman will confirm, at its best, female friendship is illuminating, supportive, intense and encouraging; the high, when female friendship is flourishing, is second only to falling in love. We invest in one another, unreservedly, and expect phenomenal returns. However, when things turn sour, the results are often catastrophic: blistering, brutal betrayal and heartless, ruthless revenge abound.
It comes as no surprise then that this mercurial and hazardous terrain of female friendship is often explored and exposed in domestic noir and psychological thrillers. I, like many novelists, enjoy writing about emotional truths that people recognize, hoping readers will invest at a deeper level, forging an intimacy between the reader and characters. Even if (thank your lucky stars) readers have not been in the same circumstances as the characters, they will have felt some of the emotional range: nearly everyone has been buffeted by revenge, jealousy or betrayal at some point in their lives.
My novel, Both of You, investigates what is owed and what is due between friends who once loved each other intensely, but ultimately find themselves capable of holding dark and devastating secrets that they can’t even share with one another. They think they know each other inside out but does anyone ever really know a person fully?
Below are some of my favourite thrillers and domestic noir novels centered around female friendship gone sour; a kaleidoscope of anger, confusion, guilt, shame, and just maybe, love, redemption and atonement.
Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies
Pirriwee Public is a beautiful little beachside primary school where children are taught that ‘sharing is caring.’ Despite that, the annual school Elvis and Audrey Hepburn fancy dress gala night ends with wailing police sirens and one parent dead. Tightly plotted, Moriarty rolls back the veneer of the seemingly perfect lives of the parents at the idyllic school and the readers are plunged into a pit of deceit, scandal and dangerous lies. However, as the quagmire of endless challenges are negotiated—teenage rebellion, blended families, single motherhood, affairs, domestic violence and rape—one thing shines through, a tremendously intense and supportive friendship between three women: Jane, Madeline and Celeste. I love this celebration of friendship. I’m not saying it all ends well, I’m just saying it’s a joy to be part of their community and, as reader, I was.
Luke Jennings, Codename Villanelle
Not exactly a look at female friendship, but something close, female obsession. This spy-action thriller follows two fiercely intelligent women who are equally obsessed with each other and go head to head in an epic game of cat and mouse. A tense, murderous duel ensues between wonderfully human, desk-bound MI6 agent Eve Polastri and Villanelle, a psychotic top-of-her-game assassin. Jennings has perhaps created the most twisted female spy villain ever. Villanelle’s beautiful, steely brilliance is all the more compelling because of the shadow she casts over Eve’s light. These co-dependants are fantastically thrilling and enthralling. The novella is intense, forceful, absorbing.
Abigail Tarttelin, Dead Girls
A quiet community is shocked by the murder of an eleven-year-old girl. But Thera, the dead girl’s best friend forever, is more than shocked—she is devastated. Thera, bright and precocious is the one who found Billie’s body after she’s missing for several days. More damaging still, Thera and Billie had been out together the day Billie disappeared and Thera feels responsible for not seeing Billie all the way home. As police swarm the village looking for the killer, fear compels parents to lie to their children and to keep them indoors, but the lies we tell young girls to keep them safe might be the most dangerous thing of all. Thera and Billie have always been interested in ghosts and ghost stories and have practiced with a Ouija Board so Thera decides that this is how she will communicate with the now deceased Billie and find her killer. So she embarks on a fraught and dangerous path. A shocking, poignant, brutal and tender book about a friendship that endures after death.
Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye
This novel is about the potential toxicity in female friendships; a thorny, provocative but very real issue that authors have often returned to and will continue to do so. Middle-aged Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood—unbearable betrayals and cruelties—surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the threat and power of Cordelia, who was once her best friend and has always been her tormentor. Fifty years may have gone by but Elaine is still haunted. The memories may have been buried like toxic waste, but their poison still seeps out into the landscape surrounding. Tense, beautiful, ferocious. It seems the disturbing cruelty of girls knows no bounds.
Both of You by Adele Parks is published by HQ HarperCollins on the 27th May in Hardback, ebook and audiobook.
It used to be agreed that talking about money, politics or religion in polite society was a no-no. How boring must dinner parties have been?! Things have relaxed; I’m comfortable talking about two of those three but money-talk leads to unnecessary aggro. If you ask me what I earn, I’ll tell you ‘Enough’. If you ask me what my engagement ring cost, I don’t know the answer. If you ask me what my house cost, I’ll be aghast – I mean people, use your heads, you can look that up online if you care. Talking about money makes people feel embarrassed, resentful, inadequate or patronised. Why bring that rubbish to the fore? However, no one is ever jealous or aggrieved if I talk about sex. Only the very squeamish are embarrassed. Talking about my sex life generally makes people laugh and I like to be entertaining. Who? When? Best? Lack of desire, desire for more? It’s almost as interesting as school league tables...