Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Published by Hogarth Press on July 11th, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
“But the acclaim also felt like part of the performance itself, the best part, and the most pure expression of what I was trying to do, which was to make myself into this kind of person, someone worthy of praise, worthy of love.”
Sally Rooney has to be the most written and most talked about author in the last couple of years. She’s graced so many “best of” lists that I finally caved and read her debut novel, Conversations with Friends.
Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed, and darkly observant. She’s a college student and an aspiring writer writer who leans on her best friend, Bobbi. Lovers at school, the two young women perform spoken-word poetry together in Dublin, where a journalist named Melissa spots their potential.
Suddenly drawn into Melissa’s orbit, Frances is surprised by how impressed she is by the older woman’s home and her tall, handsome husband, Nick. Their flirtation seems amusing and innocent at first, but gives way to a strange intimacy neither of them expect.
Given the hype, I thought I’d immediately fall in love with Conversations.
I didn’t fall madly in love with it, but I did like the book and the story. I can definitely see why people hearld this book and Rooney’s writing.
But I suspect a lot of people will classify this book as boring. Which, to be honest, at times was very dull.
But in many ways that’s what was so special about it. Rooney was great at capturing some of the more mundane parts of life. The story moved quite slowly, but more often than not, life is like that. Everyday life isn’t always some sweeping melodramatic and cinematic.
Ironically, while I was reading I found myself wondering if this was going to be turned into a movie. It almost reads like the perfect indie movie script.
Since it’s all from Frances’ perspective and there are no quotation marks, the whole book kind of read like a diary. But I’ll be honest the formatting really hindered my reading experience. I never got used to it.
I didn’t find any character particularly intriguing. But I was drawn to Frances the most.
Her inner gaze was pretty haunting. It reflected back some things I think to myself on a daily basis.
But her self-centredness also felt suffocating in the second half of the book. But that’s life as a young twenty-something woman.
Frances, Nick, Bobbi, Melissa — they’re all messy. And they don’t fix themselves either. I think that’s what I will think about as time goes on. That ending! My, oh, my, that ending.
Frances all throughout the book can’t admit her love for Nick. She can’t even admit it to herself and it was sad to see how her repression was harming her. Through her picking at her nails, biting her inner cheek, cutting herself — it was depressing.
But what stays with me is Frances’ inability to see her for who she is: a perfectly fine young woman. She constantly sees herself as a damaged person who deserves nothing, believing that only the people around her deserve to be special. And that really hit me.
I didn’t totally love this book, but I liked it enough to read Normal People. It’s on my list and I want to save it for my trip to Ireland later this year!
I recommend this book for people who want a psychological profile on young women learning to find themselves as well as who they are in relationships.