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The Best of Friends Book Summary

A Novel

by Kamila Shamsie

The Best of Friends

A Novel

Kamila Shamsie


Spanning decades and continents, ‘The Best of Friends’ follows the lives of Zahra and Maryam, two Pakistani women whose intense childhood bond faces the tests of time, distance, and vastly different choices. From their youthful idealism in Karachi during the turbulent Zia-ul-Haq era to their adult lives in London amidst the War on Terror, their friendship navigates the complexities of love, ambition, cultural identity, and the ever-evolving political landscape.

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Author & Writing Background

Kamila Shamsie is a renowned Pakistani and British novelist known for her insightful and evocative exploration of themes such as identity, politics, and social justice. Her works often delve into the experiences of South Asian characters against the backdrop of historical events and contemporary issues. Shamsie’s writing is characterized by its lyrical prose, complex characters, and thought-provoking narratives. She has received numerous accolades, including the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Key Takeaways

Enduring Friendship

The novel centers on the profound and complex friendship between Zahra and Maryam, highlighting the enduring nature of their bond despite the challenges and changes they face over the years.

Political and Social Upheaval

Shamsie weaves historical events and political turmoil into the narrative, exploring the impact of the Zia-ul-Haq regime in Pakistan and the War on Terror on the lives of the characters and their relationships.

Cultural Identity and Belonging

The novel delves into the complexities of cultural identity and belonging, as Zahra and Maryam grapple with their Pakistani heritage while navigating life in London and confronting issues of assimilation and difference.

Love and Relationships

The book explores the different facets of love and relationships, including romantic love, family bonds, and the enduring connection of friendship.

Ambition and Sacrifice

Zahra and Maryam pursue their individual ambitions and make significant sacrifices along the way, raising questions about the choices women make and the societal expectations they face.

Moral Dilemmas

The characters confront moral dilemmas and grapple with complex issues of right and wrong, particularly in the context of the War on Terror and its impact on their personal lives.

The Power of Memory

Memory plays a significant role in the novel, as the characters reflect on their shared past and how it has shaped their present and future.

Female Empowerment

The story showcases the strength and resilience of women, highlighting their ability to navigate challenges, pursue their goals, and support one another.

FAQ about The Best of Friends

Is ‘The Best of Friends’ based on a true story?

While the novel draws inspiration from real-world events and social issues, it is a work of fiction and the characters are not based on specific individuals.

What are the main themes explored in the book?

The book explores themes of friendship, love, ambition, cultural identity, political upheaval, moral dilemmas, and the power of memory.

How does the novel portray the relationship between Pakistan and the West?

The novel delves into the complexities of the relationship between Pakistan and the West, highlighting the impact of colonialism, political tensions, and cultural differences on the lives of the characters.

The Best of Friends Quotes

  • ”Friendship is a sheltering tree."
  • "The past is never dead. It’s not even past."
  • "We are all, in the end, just stories.”