In honour of Galentine’s Day (what’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!), I decided to focus on a topic that is overlooked far too often in fiction: friendship between women. We all know about the Bechdel test, but try putting together a list of books where female friendship is the focus of the story, I dare you. Bonus points if the women in question are not related. It is practically impossible! That said, here are some of my favourite fictional examples of female friendship – the good and the bad. Some of these duos are attached at the hip for life, whereas other relationships go sour in the worst possible way.
If you can think of more titles, please leave a comment below!
Brontë in a portrait painted circa 1840.
Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell first met in August 1850, after Gaskell had already been intrigued by Jane Eyre and its mysterious author for some time. Gaskell writes: “She and I quarrelled & differed about almost everything , – she calls me a democrat, & can not bear Tennyson – but… I hope we shall ripen into friends.” And they did: despite their frequent disagreements, they would exchange letters and ideas and pay each other visits until Brontë passed away in 1855, Gaskell, who had not heard anything from her for four months, did not even know that she had been ill. A few months later, she started working on the story of Brontë’s life; Gaskell spoke to many of Brontë’s friends and collected as much written material as she could get her hands on, including a great number of letters. The resulting book, The Life of Charlotte Brontë, was the first successful biography of a woman and written by a woman.
“A New Vice: Opium Dens in France”, cover of Le Petit Journal, 5 July 1903.
In nineteenth-century England, opium was both a popular recreational drug and pharmaceutical (in the form of laudanum or poppy tea). The mysterious effect of the narcotic and the gloom of the “Oriental” opium dens spread across London appealed to many Victorian authors, and some Romantics claimed that the drug fueled dreams were a great source of creative inspiration.