9 Wicked Beach Reads about Friend-Fatales

shelved under Fiction and Beach Reads

My novel, With Friends like These, has a strong theme of betrayal by a friend — the kind of person I like to call a "friend fatale". To inspire my writing I started with the Bible, moved on to Shakespeare — Julius Caesar! Othello! Macbeth! — then devoured the holy grails of heartfelt betrayal you see below.

What takes a friend to friend-fatale? It has everything to do with the deftness of their method, since the dueling is all the darker when a character does it on the sly. While the bylaws of friendship don’t require full disclosure of behavior, the chicanery in these novels — a healthy mix of classics and clever chick lit — is as deft as a sharp knife in the back.


Cat's Eye

by Margaret Atwood

Even in middle-age, Elaine Risley obsesses about the lingering trauma wrought by a trio of childhood mean girls in what's considered to be the Canadian Twitter-doyenne's most autobiographical work.

This book also appears on In Honor of Darwin, A Menagerie of Species



by Jane Austen

Pick an Austen, any Austen, and you'll see at least one friend-fatale, but this is my favorite, thanks to Lady Russell's treatment of Anne Elliot, whom she convinced to break up with the love of her life.


Summer Sisters

by Judy Blume

Judy Blume may have you at Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, but this novel isn't for the Tween set. With plenty of sex to prove it, the story deftly plumbs the psyche of an adult female, earning it more than 1,000 glowing customer reviews on Amazon.


Something Borrowed

by Emily Giffin

Lovers of this author's bestselling oeuvre say her debut, about the meaning and value of friendship, set the bar high. She cast her heroine in a less-than-flattering light, surrounded her with a constellation of likable characters and told the tale with wit.


Gone with the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell

Nothing like a war — or a love triangle — to keep a plot moving. Melanie may have been the ancestral godmother of Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, but we love this Southern classic for naughty, done-her-wrong Scarlett.


The Godfather

by Mario Puzo

Who needs friends when you've got bad guys with sawed-off shot guns and a fresh batch of cannoli? If you've seen only the movie trilogy, my invitation to read the novel is an offer you can't refuse.


Vanity Fair

by William Makepeace Thackeray, introduction by Nicholas Dames

In this 19th century Brit-lit classic, Becky Sharp is a calculating adventuress not above using friends to satisfy her greed and ambition — which she balances with sufficient charm to make you really, really like her.


Best Friends Forever

by Jennifer Weiner

When Addie and Valerie reunite a decade past graduation, they repair what had ripped them asunder, once upon a time, in a plot handled with finesse by an author who's now American chick-lit royalty.


The Age of Innocence

by Edith Wharton, introduction by Louis Auchincloss

Dashing the idea that females are the worst snarks, each chum with whom Newland Archer ever clipped a cigar piles on to quietly make sure this über-WASP doesn't leave his dull, conniving May for the infinitely more ravishing, star-crossed Countess Ellen Olenska.

This book also appears on The Best Novels About WASPs