Despite the title, friendship takes a backseat to romance in British author Noble’s second novel (The Reading Group, 2005) about the intersecting lives of a band of British women 20 years after they vow eternal friendship as college freshmen.
The four friends meet at Oxford in 1984. Slightly overweight Tamsin is already a nurturing earth mother. Reagan is a skinny, shy bookworm. Freddie, whose father is American, is a little wild but fun. Sarah is beautiful and kind; she dies young in an accident, leaving behind her mourning husband Matthew. By 2004, Reagan, nursing a secret, unrequited passion for Matthew, has turned into a workaholic lawyer with a prickly personality and a penchant for one-night stands. Tamsin, married to her college sweetie Neil, is settled into jolly domesticity and merrily pregnant with their fourth child. Freddie’s rich and handsome but shallow husband Adrian has sent her sensitive little boy Harry off to boarding school against her wishes. Driving home from Harry’s school, Freddie gets two life-changing cell-phone calls: first from Adrian, to say he’s leaving her for another woman, then from Grace, her father’s housekeeper who raised Freddie after her mother’s desertion, to say that Freddie’s father has died. Tamsin and Reagan, who has quit her job, lend Freddie their moral support by accompanying her to the funeral in America. Matthew, who has long had a crush on Freddie, soon follows, and romance slowly blossoms, while Freddie uncovers family secrets.
A wearying mix of stock characters in a lukewarm melodrama.