Best of Friends Book Summary

A Novel

by Kamila Shamsie34


Best of Friends explores the enduring yet complex friendship between Zahra and Maryam, set against the backdrop of socio-political upheaval in Karachi and their adult lives in London.

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What is Best of Friends about

Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie is a profound exploration of lifelong friendship and the forces that test its strength. The story begins in the politically charged atmosphere of Karachi, where Zahra and Maryam, two friends from vastly different backgrounds, share a deep bond. As they grow into powerful women in London, their friendship is tested by resurfacing figures from their past. This novel delves into themes of identity, feminism, class, and the moral dilemmas that can either bind or break relationships.

Best of Friends 6 Key Takeaways

Childhood Friendship in Karachi

Zahra and Maryam, despite their differing backgrounds, form a close friendship during their childhood in Karachi. Zahra is the daughter of a schoolteacher and a journalist, while Maryam comes from a life of comfort and privilege.

Adolescent Upheaval

A moment of adolescent impulse dramatically changes their plans for the future, creating an unspoken tension between the friends. This event sets the stage for the complex dynamics that will unfold later in their lives.

Life in London

Three decades later, Zahra and Maryam are influential women in London. Zahra has become a human rights advocate, while Maryam has thrived in the world of finance. Their contrasting paths highlight their fundamental differences.

Resurfacing Past

Two troubling figures from their past re-enter their lives, forcing Zahra and Maryam to confront the differences in their values and backgrounds that they had long ignored.

Moral Dilemmas

The resurfacing of the past brings moral dilemmas to the forefront. Zahra and Maryam must navigate these challenges to determine whether their friendship can endure.


As they face their differences head-on, the story explores whether loyalty and shared history are enough to sustain a friendship amidst profound personal and ethical conflicts.

Best of Friends Best Reviews

  • 'A profound novel about friendship. I loved it to pieces.' —Madeline Miller
  • 'A shining tour de force about a long friendship’s respects, disrespects, loyalties, and moralities.' —Ali Smith

Top Best of Friends Quotes

  • 'A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.'
  • 'The past is not dead. It’s not even past.'
  • 'In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.'

Who should read Best of Friends?

Best of Friends is ideal for readers interested in deep, character-driven narratives that explore complex themes like identity, feminism, and class. It will particularly resonate with those who value nuanced portrayals of friendships and moral dilemmas.

About the Author

Kamila Shamsie is a Pakistani-British novelist who has gained international acclaim for her thought-provoking and emotionally rich stories. Born in Karachi and educated in creative writing in the United States, Shamsie has authored several notable works, including Home Fire, which won the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2018. Her writing often explores themes of identity, politics, and cultural conflict.

Best of Friends FAQs

What happens in Best of Friends?

The novel follows the lives of Zahra and Maryam from their teenage years in Karachi to their adult lives in London, focusing on how their friendship endures and is tested by socio-political events and personal differences.

What is the main idea of Best of Friends?

Best of Friends explores the complexities of a lifelong friendship, examining how identity, class, and moral dilemmas influence relationships over time.

What is the theme of Best of Friends?

The novel explores themes of identity, feminism, class, and the intricate dynamics of friendship in a modern, ever-changing world.