I inhaled Conversations with Friends, reading it in a fever over the course of two days. I’ve been eager to read Sally Rooney for a while, quite certain I would like her books; I decided to start with Conversations, her debut novel, over the more recent Normal People, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I fell in love with the story.
From the back cover:
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.
Conversations with Friends is an unconventional love story at best. There is nothing special about the plot in particular- a young university student sleeps with an older, married man and things get complicated (basically)- but Rooney brings something new to the table, with Frances’ alcoholic, possibly suicidal father and her ongoing struggle with her health, mental and physical, and also Frances’ bisexuality and her confusing relationship with her best friend/ex-girlfriend Bobbi. Even with so much going on, it never feels like too much; the story ebbs and flows, moving through Frances’ narrative at an even pace.
It’s always nice to read “adult” fiction with young female narrators. In this case, 21-year-old Frances, a college student and aspiring poet. One thing I’ve learned about my reading taste is how important narration is to me. I like to be able to relate to the narrator or main character, and to feel a sense of connection with them. I definitely felt that with Frances- in her youth, in her confusion with the world. On one hand, Frances and I are entirely different; she is bisexual, she has no plans for her future, she has varying values regarding relationships with friends, family, and significant others. However, on the other hand, we are one and the same; we are young women, university students, trying to find our place in the world. Rooney does an excellent job of creating Frances’ voice in the novel, something that kept me reading late into the night, desperate to continue on with her tale.
“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.”
-Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends
Conversations with Friends is a highly addictive and enthralling read. Rooney writes a page-turning story of a confused young narrator, unsure of her future, as she enters a toxic relationship with a married man ten years her senior (though Frances certainly wouldn’t categorize their relationship as toxic). Conversations with Friends is the perfect book to devour in a sitting or two; if you’re like me, you’ll stay up way too late reading, but Rooney makes it completely worth it.
Find this book on Goodreads.