Faber signs Watt Smith's 'compelling' polemic on female friendship

Faber signs Watt Smith's 'compelling' polemic on female friendship

Faber & Faber has acquired Bad Friend: A Love Story, a "necessary and timely" meditation on female friendship by Tiffany Watt Smith.

In her non-fiction title, Watt Smith, who is the director of the Centre for the History of the Emotion at Queen Mary University, plans to show that the way friendship is experienced is not only a matter of individual personality or psychology; it is dictated by forces much larger than ourselves. Bad Friend will reveal "the hidden cultural and political histories of female friendship and unpick the ways we have learnt to think about this connection". 

The synopsis states: "What is a friend? Today, we are saturated in a culture that tells us women are better at making friends, a culture of BFFs, girl power and work wives. Yet cultural historian Tiffany Watt Smith has always found things to be much messier than that in her own life: she has had dramatic friend break-ups, friendships that felt too much or not enough, others that drifted into silence, and some built on convenience or caregiving rather than a meeting of minds. 

"We have all been ‘bad friends’ at some point in our lives, but maybe, she began to think, it’s impossible to be a good one. As she points out, female friendship has long been fetishised and judged, controlled and patrolled. Bad Friend takes the long view on this legacy and helps us understand why these bonds feel the way they do, urging a total rethink of the terms of contemporary friendship."

Associate publisher Laura Hassan acquired UK and Commonwealth rights at auction from Carrie Plitt at Felicity Bryan Associates. Faber plans to publish in 2024.

Hassan said: "This is such a compelling, under-explored topic in non-fiction and it has spurred a lot of discussion within Faber. Watt Smith spryly brings together cultural history, memoir and polemic as she argues for a more diverse, expansive idea of friendship. This book feels both necessary and timely; so much of it resonated and I can't wait to press it into the hands of all my friends."

In addition to her work as director, Watt Smith is a reader in cultural history at Queen Mary University. In 2019 she was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize for her research. She is the author of The Book of Human Emotions and Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune (both Wellcome Collection). Her TED talk, "The History of Human Emotions", has been viewed more than four million times. 

She said: "I am delighted and honoured that Bad Friend: A Love Story has found a home with Laura and the fantastic team at Faber & Faber. I’ve been thinking about and researching this book for a long time, and events of the last two years have made it feel even more pressing. Their vision for this book is imaginative, ambitious and astute, and I am very excited to be working with them."