cover image The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship

The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship

Marilyn Yalom, with Theresa Donovan Brown. Harper Perennial, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-226550-0

Yalom (How the French Invented Love) and Brown digest impressive swaths of literature as they investigate the bonds between historical women, making the bulk of the book a showcase of exemplary pairs that examines the lives of medieval nuns, early modern French literati, American social activists, and political wives, among others. Later chapters speculate on modern developments such as female roommates forming “friendship households” and online social networks reconfiguring relationships. While the history demonstrates that, at any given moment, the cultural paradigm shapes how women express their devotion—from effusive “romantic friendships” among 19th-century women to online connections forged by social media among women today—the authors suggest that the “essentials of female friendship have remained constant through the centuries.” This sweeping, lighthearted, highly readable survey hints that beyond proximity, shared interests, and “reciprocity,” there is still some lovely mystery to what binds the “noncarnal union of similar souls.” Yalom and Brown confirm that “the benefits of friendship as an educational, ennobling, and personally satisfying experience” have been, and always will be, a “prized staple” of women’s lives. [em]Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (Sept.) [/em]