“Gradually the waiting began to feel less like waiting and more like this was simply what life was: the distracting tasks undertaken while the thing you are waiting for continues not to happen.”
A sharply intelligent novel about two college students and the strange, unexpected connection they forge with a married couple.
Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed, and darkly observant. A college student and aspiring writer, she devotes herself to a life of the mind–and to the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi, her best friend and comrade-in-arms. Lovers at school, the two young women now perform spoken-word poetry together in Dublin, where a journalist named Melissa spots their potential. Drawn into Melissa’s orbit, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband. Private property, Frances believes, is a cultural evil–and Nick, a bored actor who never quite lived up to his potential, looks like patriarchy made flesh. But however amusing their flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy neither of them expect. As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally even with Bobbi. Desperate to reconcile herself to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances’s intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment.
Written with gem-like precision and probing intelligence, Conversations With Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth.
Sally Rooney is one of the authors I absolutely adore but just couldn’t recommend to everyone. She has this level of unpredictability that you never really know what you’re going to feel when reading her books. I think there were some parts when I myself didn’t want to like this book. Especially since it turned out to be more than just conversations, and some people are actually more than just friends. Harhar. (TW: extramarital affairs, mental health, men who are complete a-holes).
“You underestimate your own power so you don’t have to blame yourself for treating other people badly.”
What strikes me the most about this novel is how vulnerable everyone is. Here we have a bunch of highly intelligent and eloquent beings but deep inside, they are all still made of mush.
I have been calling the experience The Sally Rooney trap: because her novels are always filled with flawed but ultimately likeable characters, and even though they get tangled in all kinds of problematic situations, I am still emotionally invested with everyone’s well-being. There are a few authors that I love despite their stories that have no redemption (or maybe I love them because of it) and Sally Rooney is among the top of that list.
“Everyone’s always going through something, aren’t they? That’s life, basically. It’s just more and more things to go through.”
What I love about the way Sally Rooney writes is how she is able to keep control on even the most insanely intense emotions. I feel so wound up and relaxed at the same time when reading her stories. Conversations with Friends is an intimate exploration of friendship and love and the definition of “very adult feelings and relationships” and no, I don’t have any other words to use to describe it because it is just this very complex, sh*tty situation that only great writers like Sally Rooney could ever accomplish to talk about so effortlessly. Beautiful, spectacular work!
After reading a number of reviews for the novel, I understand how some readers were not able to connect with the characters. The story is mainly told through Frances’ POV and I must admit I also felt the same disconnection a couple of times. She is one of the oddest characters I’ve ever met. Most of the time I actually love meeting odd characters. But with Frances–I guess she just made me more uncomfortable than interested. But then again, I remember that so much of my suffering from the past has been stupidly self-inflicted like hers was, and reading these kinds of stories about “young people making mistakes” gives me guilty pleasure and comfort– because finally here’s someone who understands. It’s not just me that’s so f— up. So maybe my discomfort is only the kind you would feel when you thought you saw a ghost in your bathroom mirror but it turned out to be just your reflection after all.
Always, after reading Sally Rooney, I feel like I want to apologize for my existence.
“Was I kind to others? It was hard to nail down an answer. I worried that if I did turn out to have a personality, it would be one of the unkind ones. Did I only worry about this question because as a woman I felt required to put the needs of others before my own? Was “kindness” just another term for submission in the face of conflict? These were the kind of things I wrote about in my diary as a teenager: as a feminist I have the right not to love anyone.”
Reading stories through a woman’s perspective always provide comfort no matter how sweet or bitter the words are. It comes from the affirmation that others also struggle to be decent human beings. That it’s only too easy to conform but harder to lie to yourself. That for some of us, it’s simply this: “You have to live through certain things before you understand them.”
About the Author
Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from Trinity College. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Dublin Review, The White Review, The Stinging Fly, and the Winter Pages anthology.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Hardback, 304 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Hogarth (first published May 25th 2017)
Edition Language: English
Literary Awards: Dylan Thomas Prize Nominee for Shortlist (2018), Desmond Elliott Prize Nominee for Longlist (2018), Europese Literatuurprijs Nominee (2018), International Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2019), Rathbones Folio Prize Nominee (2018)
Genres: Literary Fiction | Contemporary | LGBT