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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

15 Unforgettable Female Friendships in Literature

For International Friendship Day, dive into the cherished novels that celebrate extraordinary and iconic friendships between women.

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Little Womenvia

Little Women

There’s nothing like the bonds between sisters. Jo is the bold and passionate writer. Meg offers sensible advice and grace. Beth is shy, gentle, and sensitive. And Amy is lovable, but annoying—like every little sister in the world. Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel takes you into the world of the March sisters to show the unbreakable bonds between sisters who are also the best of friends.

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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsvia

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Start with the first novel and continue with the whole series about four friends, the powerful bond between them, and their adventures in love and life. Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen find a pair of jeans that fits each of them perfectly, despite their different body shapes. The girls form a pact and decide to share the jeans. They’ll each take them for a stint as they embark on separate journeys for the summer.

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The Color Purplevia

The Color Purple

Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel features strong doses of #BlackGirlMagic. Follow Celie and her relationships with Shug and Nettie as they navigate love and life in the harsh oppression of rural Georgia in the early 1900s. Through it all, their extraordinary bonds pull them through.

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Sense and Sensibilityvia

Sense and Sensibility

Marianne is all flounce, poetry, and heart-soaring romance. So her big sister Elinor needs to keep things practical, which is hard when you have to conceal love! In Georgian England, the sisters cope with romance, heartbreak, and scandal amid losing their wealth to an older half-brother. Jane Austen’s novel depicts the rich and fierce friendships between women in a time when they lived without so many rights. These are the best movies about sisters to binge-watch.

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Waiting to Exhalevia

Waiting to Exhale

Best-selling author Terry McMillan’s popular novel follows a group of besties dealing with careers, motherhood, and love (and its loss) in this powerful portrait of contemporary black womanhood. Get ready for the relatable Gloria, Robin, Savannah, and Bernadine and their struggles and wins. It’s all about the connections between women and the strength they find there. Don’t miss the all-time best movies to watch with your best friend.

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fanvia

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Set in 19th century China, this lyrical and emotional novel explores the friendship of Lily and Snow Flower. Starting when they’re girls and continuing through adulthood, the novel shows the girls endure the trials of footbinding and arranged marriages in a society that encases and silences women. The two communicate through a secret language written on fans and hidden from men and others who would oppress them. Their strong bond provides a solace that allows them each to survive.

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Friend Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafevia

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

This beloved novel focuses on two parallel tales of extraordinary female friendship. Evelyn is caught in a mid-life slump when Mrs. Threadgoode tells her the enthralling story of Idgie and Ruth, who are eking it out in 1930s Alabama. Fannie Flagg’s acclaimed novel is a story of survival, friendship, and the power of connections between women.

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Rainbow Rowell’s novel follows a hapless nerd whose job it is to surveil a company’s internal emails back in the late 1990s. You’ll be just as enamored as he is with the incredible friendship between Beth and Jennifer. It’s all captured in their work emails—support, jokes, real talk, and everything that comes with having a great friend. Read it and ponder what an outsider would see if they followed the chat or text stream you have with your bestie.

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Jane Eyrevia

Jane Eyre

When young Jane is banished to the oppressive and horrible Lowood School, the only thing that makes it bearable is her friendship with gentle and compassionate Helen Burns. Both girls are ruthlessly punished, but Helen’s kindness offers Jane the light she needs to survive. The incredible childhood bond between the girls bolsters Jane throughout the novel as the tests and trials keep coming.

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Code Name Verityvia

Code Name Verity

This page-turner gives a harrowing account of a young woman who is captured by Nazis during World War II and forced to reveal secrets or face execution. Her story uncovers the friendship she had with Maddie, the pilot she was flying with when their plane crashed in Nazi-occupied France. Don’t miss these ten awesome books with fierce female characters.

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Divine Secret of the Ya-Ya Sisterhoodvia

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

It’s the kind of book you’ll want to pass on to your best friend when you’re done. Readers love Rebecca Wells’ novel about the mighty power of women friendships—especially when they’re bent on conspiring together. Set amid the charm and color of Southern life, the story follows a mother-daughter feud that friends are determined to heal with humor, uncovered secrets, and dollops of grace and grit. Check out the 24 books every mother and daughter should read together.

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You might know the tear-jerking movie version starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, but the novel is just as good. Cee Cee and Bertie meet as teens and become pen pals, then move in and out of each other’s lives throughout adulthood. Their intense and loving friendship spans 30 years in this heartwarming and heartbreaking look at the kind of bond everyone longs for.

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A Thousand Splendid Sunsvia

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini’s beautifully written bestseller tells the story of two women, Mariam and Laila, who live through war and unfathomable loss in Afghanistan. Though they are a generation apart, with different backgrounds, their friendship endures, and their indomitable spirits survive even amid shattering circumstances. Prepare for a harrowing and heart-rending read. Here are more books that will definitely make you cry.

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Pride and Prejudicevia

Pride and Prejudice

What happens when your bestie gets engaged to the man you detest—the day after you rejected his proposal? End of the friendship? Not in Jane Austen’s beloved romance. Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas show how women stick together no matter what. Charlotte is just being sensible, and Elizabeth relates to her friend’s practicality. Later when she visits the newlyweds’ home, she’s as relieved as Charlotte that Mr. Collins basically keeps to himself.

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Anne of Green Gablesvia

Anne of Green Gables

This classic series follows the spunky orphan Anne who is said to have a “genius” for friendship. When she’s finally delivered to a foster home, the caretakers almost send her back—they’d asked for a boy to help with chores. But Anne stays and slowly wins over everyone who knows her with her winning cheer and charisma. When she finally meets Diana, they develop that inseparable bond that signals you’ve finally found your BFF. Next, check out our favorite female characters in literature.

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Molly Pennington, PhD
Molly is a writer and collage artist with a PhD in film and cultural studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Her professional astrology services and artwork are available at Baroque Moon Astrology. She covers the zodiac, books, movies, TV and culture for Reader’s Digest, and loves to talk about all the ways we make meaning.