The good: It’s emotional, thought provoking and a gripping read.
The not-so-good: Oh Libby, sometimes I just wanted to shake some sense into you.
Why I chose it: I LOVE Lisa Ireland’s books – thank you Pan Macmillan for the copy.
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Setting: Primarily Melbourne, Australia
Rating: 10 out of 10
I always look forward to a new Lisa Ireland novel without exception, so perhaps it seems strange that I’ve waited almost a month after release to read and review The Art of Friendship. I was waiting for a less busy time to dedicate myself to reading this wonderful story and I’m glad I did because I didn’t do much else besides read once I’d opened it. The Art of Friendship is a wonderful story that pushes both the characters and the reader to their limits. It makes you question how you see your friendships and ask yourself bluntly, is this working?
The story is about two friends from childhood, Libby and Kit. Kit is the first friend Libby makes when she moves to an outer suburb of Melbourne and the girls are close friends through their teens and into their early twenties. They are separated physically for nearly twenty years after Libby moves to Sydney. Libby and her family then return to Melbourne after her husband Cameron accepts a job offer that’s nearly too good to be true. Libby and Kit will be able to see each other much more frequently and relive the close friendship of their youth.
Well, that’s the way it should have gone but then we wouldn’t have such a great story. Over the years, Kit and Libby have become very different people with differing values, opinions and life paths. Being closer just exemplifies the differences between them and it’s uncomfortable for them both. Is this a friendship that should have run its course a long time ago or is it worth repairing? Lisa Ireland throws up this difficult conundrum that I’m pretty sure most people would have faced over time. What happens when your friends don’t match your life? Because if variety is the spice of life, it sure feels awkward and not-quite-right.
Over the course of the story, the differences between Kit and Libby are highlighted, along with the major struggles in their lives. Libby is a stay at home mum, university dropout and has put all her eggs in the one basket – son Harry. She has put her heart and soul into Harry’s life being just right. Dealing with the stress of living very closely with the wives of her husband’s colleagues only fuels Libby’s need to be liked and perfect. Sure, it’s all a bit Stepford-wife like but Libby knows she has to succeed here. So when Harry turns out not to be her perfect petal, she is beyond devastated. Lashing out at Kit is one way she lets out her frustrations. Kit is the total opposite – part time lecturer, job helping women experiencing domestic violence, single, no kids and comfortable in herself. But when Kit starts a relationship with Libby’s arch-nemesis, the friendship turns to home truths and low blows.
What I really admired about The Art of Friendship is that it wasn’t afraid to show the ugly bits. That Harry might be a bit of a weird kid. That Libby would sell her soul to be perfect and part of the in crowd. That Kit can be too outspoken and passionate. That sometimes, friendship is going through the motions rather than truly caring for each other. It was a bit uncomfortable at times as the truths were laid bare and the characters revealed to be far from perfect. But I just wanted to keep reading. Even though I found Libby a bit lacklustre in ambition beyond Harry and appearance, she was still adequately redeemed at the end of the novel. I must admit to being Team Kit, as I felt she was open to her faults and at ease. Overall, I loved the story. The pacing is tight, the secrets satisfying and pages just turned themselves. Overall, this is Lisa’s best book to date.