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Review: The Art Of Friendship by Lisa Ireland

on May 10, 2018

The Art Of Friendship 
Lisa Ireland
Pan Macmillan AUS
2018, 387p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

We all expect our friendships from childhood to last forever…

Libby and Kit have been best friends ever since the day 11-year-old Kit bounded up to Libby’s bedroom window. They’ve seen each other through first kisses, bad break-ups and everything in-between. It’s almost 20 years since Libby moved to Sydney, but they’ve remained close, despite the distance and the different paths their lives have taken.

So when Libby announces she’s moving back to Melbourne, Kit is overjoyed. They’re best friends – practically family – so it doesn’t matter that she and Libby now have different …well, different everything, actually, or so it seems when they’re finally living in the same city again.

Or does it?

As an adult, friendship feels like such a tricky thing. Far more so than when I was a child. I’m not really sure what it is – perhaps it’s moving interstate as an adult without knowing anyone. I still have friends from my high school years but we are spread out all over the globe now, contact restricted to liking each other’s photos on facebook. I would imagine that were some of them to suddenly move close to me, it would be almost like getting to know them all over again. And I’d imagine that there’d probably be a few teething problems, much like Libby and Kit experience.

Libby and Kit became close friends through proximity, which is often how you meet and become friends with someone as kids. Their friendship survives attending different high schools and Libby’s moving away to Sydney during the university years. Although they do get to see each other in person each year during a Boxing Day tradition, the majority of their interactions have been by phone, letters, emails. They are also leading quite different lives – Libby is married with a son and Kit is quite determinedly single with a job she devotes herself to. Libby has never really carved out a career niche for herself and has no regrets leaving her job behind to move to Melbourne.

I loved so much about this book – firstly, it’s set pretty close to where I live! Libby moves to an area not far from where I am now when she’s a child and when she moves back as an adult to an exclusive new development ‘community’ it’s not unlike where I live, in a way, which is in a newly developed area of what used to be market gardens and farmland. A lot of what Libby sees around her is familiar to me and like Libby, I’ve never really known what I’ve wanted to do with my life in terms of a career. And although I don’t think I’m quite as involved a parent as Libby, I understand that reaction to protect your child, to perhaps look for the excuses and to automatically assume that they’re the victim. I think that’s only natural, to a certain extent. But Libby definitely goes a lot further with this than I believe that I would! I really liked the way Libby’s issues with her son played out, especially as it bled into her friendship with Kit – entrusting her with his care but then being very upset with the way Kit had handled things, which angers Kit.

I think both Libby and Kit feel as though it will be easy to pick up this friendship when Libby moves back to Victoria but the reality is very different. Libby is living in a rather exclusive area, a gated community with its own golf course, country club and it comes with the wives of her husband’s work colleagues, who demand her social inclusion in events and planning. Kit has moved, she’s still in the western suburbs but not this new version. She has little time for Libby’s new friends and the lives they lead and seems confused about Libby’s lack of focus and desire to find a job. One of the incidents I felt best demonstrated a divide in their personal lives was when Kit suggested they return to Paris for their 40th birthdays. Libby immediately says she needs to discuss it with her husband and think about the implications of leaving their son and Kit can’t believe this, derisively wondering why she needs to ask her husband’s permission. She doesn’t, but I was curious that was the conclusion she jumped to. If my husband made a snap decision to go overseas without consulting me to work out logistics (even if money wasn’t an issue at all) I would be really annoyed. Likewise I wouldn’t do the same to him. We discuss everything, even if it’s just me going to the football with a friend or him needing to go to a work dinner. Kit seems to see Libby’s husband as quite controlling or demanding from the outside looking in. Which to me, was interesting – is that what marriage looks like to people that aren’t and don’t really do relationships? Who don’t have to….not answer to someone else, but at least think about them and consult them or use them as a sounding board for decisions and opinions.

I think this was a really strong, believable look at the world of adult friendships – not only negotiating that entire world of them but also making them, keeping them and trying to hold onto those ones that have been important to us for years. The characters are sharply realistic – down to earth but also flawed. This book is mired in the day to day routines of busy people and the juggling that involves as well as the various domestic issues that come into play. And it’s also not a neat and tidy finish either….there’s no magic solution for the fact that these two people are very different to how they were as children, nor for the fact that some horrible things get said. Instead I would describe the ending as ‘cautiously optimistic’ and I feel as though that’s a really good choice, in keeping with the story that has been constructed. Life isn’t neat and tidy, it’s messy and full of awkward moments, broken connections and tough times. Lisa Ireland’s last two books have absolutely excelled at portraying that uncertainty and I’ve loved them both.


Book #86 of 2018




One response to “Review: The Art Of Friendship by Lisa Ireland

  1. […] can check out my review of Lisa’s The Art Of Friendship here and The Shape Of […]

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