Get the average woman talking about her experience with female friendship, and before long, her voice will likely grow wistful as she recalls that friend: the one who irritates her beyond belief, who’s wronged her in infinite ways, but whom she can’t help loving anyway because she’s magnetic, charming, and always comes through just when she’s ready to write her off. By the time we hit our late 20s and 30s, that friend is often relegated to memory, but the time we spent in her thrall can’t be erased.
As many American women are marrying and having children later (if at all), platonic female friendship has become more important than ever for them. Complex friendship between women is a perennial theme in so many stories. Fans of Italian author Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan novels charted such a friendship throughout decades, were excited to discover she has a new novel coming out, but if you simply can’t wait for that, here’s a—by no means exhaustive—list of novels that unpack the frequently loaded concept of “female bonding.”
The Group by Mary McCarthy
This 1963 chronicle of cliquey Vassar girls’ postgrad lives was Mean Girls before Mean Girls was Mean Girls (with a surprisingly avant-garde queer romance to boot).
Sula by Toni Morrison
If you’re still mourning the loss of Toni Morrison, do yourself a favor and reread her 1973 exploration of the relationship between best friends Nel and Sula, which is joyful and fraught in equal measure.
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore
This 1994 novel beautifully illustrates how an adolescent friendship can shape a lifetime, whether or not it survives.
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Friendship by Emily Gould
If you had a best girlfriend in your 20s, you’re more than likely to see glimpses of yourself in Gould’s 2014 exploration of the intense, borderline-codependent bond between outgoing Amy and unassuming Bev.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Time can—and most likely will—change a relationship, Smith reminds us in this ambitious story that partly revolves around the devolution of two young biracial dancers’ childhood friendship in London.
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
Rooney’s Instagram status symbol of a debut novel largely revolves around protagonist Frances’s affair with a married man, but the story’s beating heart is her on-and-off friendship with exuberant Bobbi.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Moshfegh’s beautiful, remote protagonist is consistently weary of her troubled best friend, Reva, but something always keeps her coming back to their friendship (even if it’s just the promise of feeling superior).
Bunny by Mona Awad
Mona Awad takes the complexities of all-female group dynamics and transmutes them into science fiction, placing her narrator in the clutches of an imposing graduate-school clique who refer to each other only as “Bunny,” and whose motives only become more sinister as the novel progresses.
How Could She by Lauren Mechling
Vogue’s own Lauren Mechling penned this summer’s demystification of platonic love, competition, and loss among women, all while tracing the arc of digital media from the death of blogs to the podcast revolution.
Originally Appeared on Vogue