Top Ten Tuesday: Friends and family

The topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl is:

Platonic Relationships In Books (friendships, parent/child, siblings, family, etc.)

Romantic relationships in books usually get most of the attention, but often the relationships I find the strongest or the most moving are the ones between family and friends. Here are ten of my favourites. I could have included many more!

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1. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)

I wanted to start my list with some fictional sisters and naturally the March girls were the first to come to mind! Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy don’t always get along, but as sisters there’s an unbreakable bond between them. I think part of the appeal is that the four all have such different personalities, so most readers will be able to identify with at least one of them.

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2. D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis (The Three Musketeers and sequels by Alexandre Dumas)

All for one and one for all! I had to include this classic tale of friendship on my list. Like the sisters in Little Women, d’Artagnan and his three friends each have very different character traits, which means that most readers will be able to pick a favourite. In the later books in the series, the four of them are leading separate lives of their own, only interacting occasionally, but it’s the relationship between them that makes the first book such a joy to read.

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3. Francis and Richard Crawford (The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett)

This wonderful series contains lots of relationships, platonic and otherwise, which are developed over the course of the six novels, but one I find particularly interesting is the one between our hero, Francis Crawford of Lymond, and his brother, Richard. To say that they don’t always see eye to eye would be an understatement and following the ups and downs of their relationship from The Game of Kings to Checkmate was one of my favourite aspects of the series.

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4. Claire Fraser and Jenny Murray (the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon)

As with the Lymond Chronicles above, there are many relationships in the Outlander series that I could have featured here, but I have chosen the one between Claire Fraser and her sister-in-law Jenny Murray, one of the most long-standing in the series, being formed in the first book of eight. Their relationship changes a lot throughout the series as Claire travels the world having adventures while Jenny stays at home on the family estate in Scotland; sometimes they are barely speaking, while at others they’re the best of friends.

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5. Fitz and Nighteyes (The Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies by Robin Hobb)

I’m currently in the middle of the Tawny Man trilogy, so this relationship came quickly to mind. Nighteyes is a wolf, but in Hobb’s fantasy world the bond he shares with Fitz is far stronger than the bond you would usually expect between a human and an animal. There are several occasions where Fitz owes his life to Nighteyes and vice versa.

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6. Bishop Jean Marie Latour and Father Joseph Vaillant (Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather)

The two central characters in Willa Cather’s 1927 novel are French missionaries who are sent into the newly formed diocese of New Mexico in the nineteenth century. They are very different men and I found the depiction of the friendship between the warm, friendly Vaillant and the quiet, reserved Latour very moving.

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7. Atticus, Jem and Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

This 1960 classic is a favourite of many people, including myself, and one of the reasons for that is surely the relationship at the heart of the novel between lawyer Atticus Finch and his children, Jem and Jean Louise (Scout). It’s a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding; Scout and Jem learn a lot of important lessons from their father, but they have a lot to offer him in return.

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8. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin (the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian)

I’m not usually a fan of nautical fiction, but I am now six books into Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring series and looking forward to reading the seventh. I still don’t know my mainsail from my topsail, but the friendship between Royal Navy Captain Jack Aubrey and ship’s surgeon and spy Stephen Maturin is enough for me to keep reading.

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9. Arthur Bryant and John May (Bryant and May series by Christopher Fowler)

These two eighty-year-old detectives have the perfect partnership, each bringing a very different approach to crime-solving. May is practical, logical and ready to embrace modern technology, while the eccentric Bryant prefers to rely on clairvoyants, witches and his own arcane knowledge. Their differences could explain how they’ve had so much success over the years and have remained such good friends.

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10. Flavia, Ophelia and Daphne de Luce (the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley)

I started my list with sisters, so will finish with sisters. The relationship between twelve-year-old Flavia and her two older sisters is one that has frustrated me since the beginning of the series. Why do they dislike each other so much? Why are Feely and Daffy so cruel to Flavia? Nine books into the series, there are finally some signs that their relationship is starting to improve, but it has taken a long time!

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Have you read any of these? What are your favourite platonic relationships in fiction?

26 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Friends and family

  1. Rhiannon Lewis says:

    Some fantastic books here. Loved the fact that you have included Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. The whole series is completely addictive. I read all 21 (22?) one after another. Great choices here.

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad to hear you’re a fan of the Aubrey-Maturin series too, Rhiannon. I think reading all 21 books one after another would be too much for me, so I’m spacing them out with other books in between. I loved the first six and am looking forward to the rest.

  2. Café Society says:

    I agree about the importance of platonic relationships. I always thought that one of the reasons the films Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill were so successful was that we all really wanted to have a friendship group as strong and supportive as those they depicted.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I’m sure you’re right. I have always enjoyed books and films which depict strong friendships and/or family ties, rather than focusing solely on romantic relationships.

    • Helen says:

      Little Women was one of the first books that came to mind when I started thinking about this week’s topic. I could also have included the relationship between the four sisters and their mother, as I love that one too. 🙂

  3. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

    Great list! I recently rewatched the 1994 adaptation of Little Women, which remains my favourite adaptation, and I do love these sisters. The Three Musketeers and Flavia de Luce books are both series I keep meaning to get to!

    • Helen says:

      The 1994 adaptation of Little Women is my favourite too. I hope you like the Musketeers and Flavia series when you get to them – they are both great, in their different ways!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I enjoyed putting this list together! I often find that I enjoy reading about friendships and families as much or more than romantic relationships.

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    Excellent list! I would add the Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante because the relationship of the two main women in the story just drives the whole thing.

  5. Carmen says:

    What a great spin on this week’s topic! I love all the March sisters except Beth, or is it Amy, the one who married the boy who was in love with Jo? I think she is a little high brow compared to the others. I love all musketeers, and the familial dynamics between Atticus, Jem, and Scout. Some of the other stories I know through movies or TV adaptations. Claire Fraser and Jenny is a good, solid relationship. Both are strong women. I love them both. I liked the Master and Commander movie, but not enough to want to read the books; I wasn’t crazy about the characters or the jargon.

    • Helen says:

      The sister you’re thinking of is Amy – I’ve never liked her much either, but I love Jo and Beth. I haven’t seen Master and Commander, but maybe the characters come across better in the book than they do on film. The nautical jargon was a problem for me at first, but I’ve stopped worrying about trying to understand it all and am just concentrating on the plots.

  6. FictionFan says:

    Some great ones there! I’d add Anne of Green Gables and Matthew – I love their friendship. And the four hobbits in the Fellowship of the Ring – they’re so loyal to each other, and a bit like the March sisters, they have such different personalities that the reader is almost certain to have a personal favourite – mine’s Merry…

    • Helen says:

      I had forgotten about the hobbits! I had considered including Marilla and Anne as an example of a difficult relationship which improves over the course of the book, but yes, I love the friendship between Matthew and Anne too.

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