3 months ago

Female Friendships Under The Microscope

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There’s a scene in my novel Expectation when two lifelong friends meet in a London Park, one is exhausted, close to the edge with a new baby, isolated and lonely, the other on a last chance round of IVF. Although both wish to, neither can give the other what she needs. Both leave feeling awful. Both vow not to see or speak to the other for a while.

I have been both women. I know how hard it can be.

There’s a particular texture to the nexus of emotions we feel towards our female friends – that tangled place where love meets comparison, meets jealousy, meets support – which is unlike any other set of relationships in our lives. At no point do we feel these emotions more acutely than in our thirties, when the paths to the roads not taken start to seal up, when we take stock, and wonder – was this the person I was supposed to become?

Expectation is a novel all about these tangled threads, as we follow three women, Hannah Cate and Lissa, through their late teens into their twenties, thirties and beyond. I drew deeply on my own experience when writing the novel, drawing on a time in my life – my mid-thirties – when I was living in London, with little money, working in a call-centre while not acting, and trying to have a child. It was a period when I experienced all sorts of difficult feelings: envy, disappointment, shame, desire.

Without doubt my friendships suffered; there were certain women that I stopped seeing so much because I couldn’t afford to eat at the same restaurants as them, or accompany them to a bar. But by far the hardest part of this time was my struggle to have a child; as the years went by it became harder and harder to be happy or present for those of my friends who conceived with no trouble, to show delight at pictures of twelve week scans, hold their new-borns, or listen to their stories of sleepless nights without feeling the dark wash of my own grief. At my worst I withdrew, avoiding even my closest, oldest friends. I knew they had their own struggles going on, but I just didn’t want to hear about them, the clamour of my own story far too loud in my ears.

But time heals. Now, in our forties, it feels as though my friends and I are coming to terms with our lives. The friendships, which suffered in those years of my thirties, have re-blossomed. We have hurt each other, have had periods of distance from each other, but there is an understanding, now, that after all these years, that the tides of life will bring us together again – and this feels like such a gift.

Expectation by Anna Hope is published today, July 11, Trade Paperback, €15.

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