[She] is the person with whom, in a room full of silly, boastful people, you will exchange a silent, speaking glance that becomes a smile; the person to whom you never need to explain yourself laboriously; the person you will not compete with.

[She] is that person you realize, deep down and at once, will be your friend.

This wonderful definition of female friendship is surprisingly written by a man in his book Indiscretion, a tribute to Jane Austen–Austen with balls (and not the waltzing kind), if you like–a truly fabulous read. Austen didn’t write many strong female friendships–the whole area seems to be full of pitfalls for her. Many of the friendships she depicts are skin deep–Marianne Dashwood cultivating Lucy Steele to find out the truth about Edward, for instance; or Catherine Morland’s flighty friendship with the flighty Isabella Thorpe. I’ve never really been sure whether Elizabeth Bennett’s friendship with Charlotte Lucas is deep enough, or shallow enough, to survive Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins.

Austen’s relationships between sisters are much stronger and more subtle, and I think that’s a convention romance has adopted. Jude Morgan’s Indiscretion is the only romance I’ve read (and I’m very poorly read in romance, I’m the first to admit it) where a female friendship rings true.

Who are your favorite fictional sets of friends or sisters, and which would you rather read about?