The Friendship

The Friendship

by Connie Palmen
     
 
It was in the village school playground that Kit first laid eyes on Ara and determined that they were to become best friends. Kit was ten, Ara two years older. If Kit was a scrawny little girl, quick and dynamic, Ara was large, slow, and deliberate. Kit's "greatest joy was thinking and then putting thoughts into words"; Ara was the silent, physical one, and given

Overview

It was in the village school playground that Kit first laid eyes on Ara and determined that they were to become best friends. Kit was ten, Ara two years older. If Kit was a scrawny little girl, quick and dynamic, Ara was large, slow, and deliberate. Kit's "greatest joy was thinking and then putting thoughts into words"; Ara was the silent, physical one, and given her instinctive rapport with animals, it was little wonder that she grew up to become a dog trainer. The story of their friendship is told through the eyes of Kit, and it shows with astonishing precision just how a person, especially someone growing up, is a battleground on which obsessive claims of the mind, addictions, and instincts strive for domination.

The Friendship, which was the winner of the AKO Literature Prize and sold more than 400,000 copies in Holland, is written with deceptive simplicity and a beautifully sustained tension.

Connie Palmen was born in Holland in 1955. She studied philosophy and literature at Amsterdam University and started her writing career early. The Friendship is her second novel.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Palmen's second novel to be translated into English is a psychologically motivated study of a 20-year friendship between two Dutch schoolgirls. Written in three parts, the more successful and captivating first section opens in 1966. At the age of 10, "Kit" (Catherina) Buts--small, thin, erratically brilliant and popular with her classmates--meets new student "Ara" (Barbara) Callenbach. Swarthy, heavy and clumsy, Ara, 13, has repeated several grades. She has "something in her head which [makes] the words come out wrong" when she tries to read or write. During the next two years, the friendship between the two girls grows and deepens, surviving the taunts and sniggers of their classmates, the well-meaning disapproval of their respective mothers and the headmistress of their primary school, and their own power struggles. Kit's first-person narrative brilliantly mimics the breathless, scattershot character of a child's storytelling. Her renditions of the well-meant lectures--different in tone but identical in aim--of her fretful, insecure mother and her powerful, controlling headmistress are both cruel and funny, in the way that children's cold-eyed observations so often are. In Parts II and III, however, as Kit and Ara go off to secondary school and then on to their lives as young adults--Ara becomes a dog trainer and Kit an academic--the novel loses focus. As Kit delves deeper into her studies in psychology and philosophy, her narrative no longer depicts a relationship. Instead, it theorizes about that relationship and its possible larger implications. While obviously knowledgeable, the narrator's theoretical musings turn into disjointed harangues. A bestseller in the Netherlands, like her first novel, The Laws, Palmen's bracingly intellectual but oblique second novel will appeal to a more limited readership in the U.S. Even devotees of cerebral European literary fiction may be frustrated this time around by Palmen's swerve from an engaging narrative into the foggy hinterlands of her narrator's psyche. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Set in the Netherlands, this book chronicles a 20-year friendship between narrator Kit and her alter ego, Ara. As the book opens, ten-year-old Kit meets the slightly older Ara on the school playground. She almost instantly recognizes that Ara is an outsider like herself. While Ara is aloof at first as the newest student in the school, Kit is able to penetrate this reserve, and the two quickly develop a nearly complete emotional dependence upon each other, with some sexual undertones as well. Is the friendship unhealthy and exclusive or supportive and mutually beneficial? This is a question Kit and Ara themselves attempt to answer. As their friendship evolves over 20 years, they trade some frank, unflattering insights but remain devoted to each other. Awarded the AKO Literature Prize when it was first published in the Netherlands in 1995, this bold, forthright, sometimes disturbing coming-of-age novel is stunning and totally believable in its portrayal of the hopes and insecurities of adolescent girls. Highly recommended for most fiction collections.--Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Sys., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781860465604
Publisher:
Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/28/2000
Pages:
261
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.88(d)

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