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3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Can We Still Be Friends
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:£12.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 8 June 2013
This, apparently, is Ms Shulman's first novel. Let's hope it's her last. I can only think that the excellent Guardian review she received, which prompted me to buy this book, was written either by a very good friend or by someone equally as shallow and living with her in cuckoo land. The whole book has the feel of being written by a 15-year old schoolgirl. Who cares what designer label everybody was wearing at every moment of their insignificant, boring lives? Ms Shulman clumsily tries to give the "novel" the feel of the eighties by clumsily inserting references to Margaret Thatcher, Arthur Scargill etc and current pop records. Each reference lands with a clunk, shoehorned in for no reason except to say "Hey! this is the eighties!". Being the same age as the protagonists I had hoped for some recognition of the world I lived in at the time but it bore no resemblance to real life.

The book was people by a large cast of unlikeable characters about whom nobody could care. Pretentious, superficial, pompous - the whole range of characteristics was here, from A to B. It was a struggle to finish the book, in which nothing of any interest happens. Spoiler alert - no-one dies. I wish they all would.
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on 14 January 2014
Vogue editor Shulman's novel begins, as such novels often do, with three female friends leaving university (in this case in the early 1980s) to head to work in London, and vowing eternal friendship. Once they hit the big city, their lives begin to go in very different directions. Skinny, ambitious and glamorous Salome (Sal) lands a job working as a journalist on a Sunday tabloid, and is soon entering the hard-drinking and hard-partying world of celebrity journalism with enthusiasm. Socially conscious, gentle Kendra (the daughter of wealthy American ex-pats working in the arts) decides to work with deprived children, and takes a job working under the charismatic Gioia, director of a centre for delinquent teenagers which introduces them to music, art and crafts and theatre in a converted chapel in Kentish Town. Alas, the salary is so small that she still has to live with her parents in their Notting Hill mansion - until the job leads her to make a surprising discovery about herself. Meanwhile Annie, the quietest of the three girls, lands a job in PR and begins to search for the thing she wants more than anything else - a husband. As the 1980s progress, the girls' lives become increasingly complicated. Kendra and Gioia fall in love, to the disapproval of Kendra's ultra-stylish mother and puzzlement of Kendra's gentle father Art, and also have to cope with lessening funds for the Chapel as Thatcher's regime begins to hit hard. Annie gives up her first boyfriend Jackson when he turns out to be a two-timer, and leaps into marriage with the stable and responsible Charlie - only to find that a man who seems perfect on paper is often very imperfect in terms of a life match. And Sal's drinking and drug-taking (which masks her insecurities about her abilities and capacity to inspire love) begins to spiral out of control, eventually leading to a terrible betrayal of Kendra and Gioia in which Annie too is implicated - can the girls still be friends?

Shulman has fun describing 1980s London - its politics, fashions, art and music - and writes in a fairly entertaining style. Her world is one few of us will recognize (full of mothers with nice houses in Hampshire and friends letting out pied-a-terres in London to girls straight out of university, American millionaires who give their daughters allowances, luxurious parties and PR events) but one that it's quite fun to experience via a book for a few hours. And the story of Kendra and Gioia and their work at the Chapel, and Kendra's dilemma about how to tell her parents about their relationship, is genuinely moving. However, Shulman doesn't do herself any favours by making the other two main female characters in the book so irritating. Annie is hopelessly bland - and how many girls at 23 would be quite that desperate for marriage at the expense of everything else? - and passive, and her behaviour with her two men shows that the Women's Movement of the 1970s didn't do a great job for everyone! Sal is pretty obnoxious - maybe I'd have sympathized with her more if Shulman had given better reasons for why she turned to drink and drugs than 'her father always criticized her because she was a rebel', but with no reason to understand her careless behaviour, she just came across as selfish and not all that bright. Maybe it was down to my lack of interest in either Annie or Sal that I felt the novel increasingly ran out of steam towards the end - after Sal's 'terrible act of carelessness' the story didn't seem to know where to go, and the whole near-drowning incident at the end was pure 'Malory Towers' (dubious character redeems themselves by saving the life of another heroically). The ending was fine but a bit sentimental - all in all, I felt the whole novel could have done with a bit more structure, and with less one-dimensional second-rank characters ('the tyrannical stylish mum', the 'bland middle-aged middle-class parents', the 'no-good wild boyfriend', 'the wicked young journalist', the 'Hooray Henry' young upper-class friends etc). There were also a few strange touches - Annie apparently became a star painter in the final chapter, even though she'd expressed no interest in art before, I always thought one ate osso bucco with risotto, not mash, Painswick is near Gloucester, not Cheltenham, there wasn't a university in the Cheltenham and Gloucester area in the 1980s (Sal's dad would have had to commute to Bristol or Birmingham) and New Cross is an inner suburb of London, so Kendra couldn't have thought it 'wasn't really part of London at all, even in the 1980s!). Nevertheless, all this considered I have to say that I quite enjoyed the book as a very light read, and it brought back some interesting memories of the 1980s, which I remember from childhood.

Early in the book, Kendra looks over her lover Gioia's book collection and notes that she 'only has time for serious reading. Life's too short to read trash'. While I wouldn't call this book 'trash' by any means, it is definitely very light reading - so I'd only recommend it if you have time to kill or need a real switch-off.
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on 9 June 2012
Terrible. Whoever is posting 5* reviews for this piece of tripe is either a friend of Ms. Shulman's or hoping to be featured in Vogue. This book potentially had so much going for it. The lady has done a wonderful job with Vogue and one presumes she is a journalist who can write. So why has she produced this piece of consummate rubbish that has wooden characters, cliched dialogue and virtually no plot? The first chapter is possibly the worst opening chapter I've ever read and if Ms Shulman was not a 'name' there is no way on god's earth that a publisher would have looked twice at this.

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on 22 August 2015
The only difference between this and Fifty Shades of Grey are the fancy words and uneccessarily long sentences. Quite badly written, which is surprising considering what a great job has Ms Shulman been doing with British Vogue. The characters haven't been made likeable or interesting, so consequently I don't care what happens to them. I feel like the whole 'lesbian thing' Kendra suddenly has going on could have been more built up in the plot, her boss comes onto her and suddenly, she's a lesbian. Annie is very very naive and comes off kinda daft, even for a girl living in the eighties. Sal is probably the most realistic character out of those three, but even she's not interesting enough to keep me want to read. What happened at work after the sleazy Stuart made a move and she rejected him? We never find out, it's very unlikely he just avoided her after he nearly made an attempt to rape her but she managed to escape. Even if so, the author could have mentioned it instead of making it happen and then simply ignoring it.
Overall, a big disappointment, for £7.99 and editor in chief of Vogue I expected a lot more.
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on 1 May 2012
I was really looking forward to reading 'Can We Still Be Friends', Alexandra Shulman's first novel. I'd read all the publicity, I liked the coming of age premise and I'm a child of the 80s... I expected this novel to hit the spot, and so invested in the hardback. Unfortunately I was disappointed.

I won't go into the plot as this was not especially remarkable. The major issue for me was that I found none of the 3 main women characters likeable, and as such really didn't care about their individual outcomes. Added to this, the constant label checking (which I know can be part of the scene setting, but was excessive here in my view), was quite wearing and began to feel like product placement.

It wasn't dreadful, but it wasn't the brilliant debut I was expecting either. Overall, I'd advise waiting for the paperback.
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on 8 May 2012
Started reading this as a work Book Club choice. I wanted to give this a one star but really didn't waste enough of my time reading it to hate it even more than I disliked it. I found the characters shallow and felt that the author had just collected as much information about the products and fashions of the eighties and "name dropped them throughout the book. For example, (my words) .. She fell over the precipice. Not enough - She has to fall over in her "Whoever" rope-wedged strappy sandals. This is a book for those who want to reminisce as they read through - "I had that record, went to that place, ate at Cranks, fried myself to a crisp on the same beach, etc, etc. - banal comes to mind. Perhaps I am jaundiced having lived through it and bought the deep fat fryer.
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on 4 September 2015
This book was an easy holiday read that I enjoyed, though quite generic. It got across the aspects of being a twenty-something in London in the 80s and made some interesting insights into female friendships but the characters are quite stereotypical. I liked the style of AS's writing though and am definitely going to read the Parrots after reading this. Can imagine a film being made of this.
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on 23 April 2013
I took this with me to occupy me on a long journey and have had to abandon it a few chapters in. It's so badly written, it's making me wince. It's bland, banal and humourless.

It's also most off-putting that my copy seems to break words in two every few lines, rather than the publisher having adjusted the type to fit the page. There's a highly inappropriate example of this on page one! That was pretty much my highlight of the whole read.

Don't bother. There are so many better chick lit writers out there.
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on 8 March 2013
I gave this three stars because I got to the end but really don't rate it.

The characters are two dimensional stereotypes and I didn't warm to any of them in the slightest. The plot line is predictable and the amount of brand name dropping is unforgiveable.

I wish I hadbn't bothered.
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on 10 May 2012
Found this book very easy to put down and very hard to pick up. On the good side I had no problems getting to sleep with it. It was just like one of those stories that you get in a magazine, just stretched out.
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