Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Published July 11th, 2017 by Hogarth Press.
Adult > Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Frances is a coolheaded and darkly observant young woman, vaguely pursuing a career in writing while studying in Dublin. Her best friend is the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi. At a local poetry performance one night, they meet a well-known photographer, and as the girls are then gradually drawn into her world, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and handsome husband, Nick. But however amusing Frances and Nick’s flirtation seems at first, it begins to give way to a strange–and then painful–intimacy.
Written with gemlike precision and marked by a sly sense of humor, Conversations with Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth, and the messy edges of female friendship.
Although it’s been about a week since I finished reading Conversations with Friends, I feel this in-progress status update still applies to my feelings about it: “I can’t find a reason to like any of these characters, yet I’m absolutely addicted to reading this book?”
This was a strange feeling for me… I don’t think I’ve ever read a book and not been able to pinpoint my feelings towards it. I don’t want to say that I’m neutral toward this book because I don’t think that’s the case. There’s something about it that I really liked, but I think the characters are holding me back from fully loving it.
Immediately this book asserted its difference in that dialogue is written without quotation marks. This took me some getting used to but didn’t affect my reading experience further. From a language perspective, I’m actually curious to know what the intent to write in this way was? Yet, the book still reads quickly and with a punch.
Concerning the story, Conversations with Friends follows two young, college-aged women, and a married couple. I don’t want to describe them as bad people, but their morale should definitely be questioned. I see this book as a portrait of a subset of people but also was able to find points of relatability within them. Could this be why I’m so muddy with my feelings toward this book? These characters aren’t written to be likable, so seeing aspects of myself reflected in them is uncomfortable. Could this be part of Rooney’s intent?
Really not all that much happens plot-wise. It’s a book about relationships and daily life decisions. It’s about friendships and complications. Therefore, I understand the mixed reviews. I hate to be inconclusive, but I still don’t know about this book. I’m glad I read it. It was dramatic and millennial and somewhat easy, mindless reading. I liked getting caught up in the drama of a life experience that seemed quite far-fetched and outrageous to someone like me, who could have been Frances.
So all that being said, I can’t recommend this book. But I can’t not recommend it either. It’s not a polarizing book by any means, but I feel that in order to really know if it’s a you kind of book, you’re just going to have to jump on the bandwagon and read it yourself!
As a sidenote: this book actually pushed me to seek out other books that seemed to share a similar content and character type. I read Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky (out 7/2/19) immediately following Conversations with Friends, and can confidently state that I loved it! I’ll have a review of that coming soon.