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Juliette, Natasha, Camilla, Siobhan, Renée and Sissy are a group of friends. They have known each other since their first year at university, and have overcome many hardships together throughout the years: a scandal involving Natasha’s father and his subsequent suicide, Juliette’s search for her real mother, Sissy’s husband’s death, etc. They are inseparable… or are they really?

The narration focuses on each women in turn, as they decide to meet for their annual picnic in Hyde Park, by the Serpentine lake. By getting into their heads, we learn about their different personalities: Camilla, the slightly snobbish housewife, who takes pride in fine cooking and nice crockery, Natasha, the achiever with the successful career, famous husband and perfect kids, Juliette, beautiful and married to the man she met at university, but deeply unsatisfied and insecure, Renée, the sexy and promiscuous unmarried one, Sissy, the inconsolable widow and Siobhan, the one everybody picks on, the annoying whiner, the black sheep of the group. That evening, unbeknownst to them, someone is watching the group…

As the evening unfolds, the reader realises that there is a lot of resentment going around, and that what separates these women is beginning to weigh a lot more than what brings them together… And then, at the end of the evening, they were five. One of them dies…

When we were friends is about the tensions, the resentments, the secrets that can build within a group of friends whose ties span over more than twenty years. I liked the fact that these women and I are of the same generation, and I liked how the author managed to convey their very different personalities. This story shows how appearances can be deceitful, and how sometimes we stick to the image we have of somebody, how we put this person in a box, refusing all the time to see them change when they do, probably because we are more comfortable with our own stereotyping and categorising.

However, the novel was a bit unequal, with some parts better that others: I was at times expecting more surprises along the way, as in the part narrating Sissy’s husband’s death, which we wait for for a long time and is a bit of a let-down when it comes. I was also slightly disappointed with how the one who dies meets her end. On the other hand, I was quite fascinated with the whole part set in America where two of the girls go selling encyclopaedias, and how things turns out for Renée.

This novel was a bit similar, in construction and atmosphere, to Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. It was a very entertaining and suspenseful page-turner. And for the final words, let’s just say: with friends like these, you don’t need ennemies…