Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney Book Review
Author: Sally Rooney is a debut author from Ireland. Conversations with Friends is her first novel and will be published by Faber & Faber June 2017.
This was a Netgalley read from a debut author Sally Rooney. Sally was a graduate working in an admin job at a restaurant writing ‘failed novels’ when suddenly she got up and left and wrote this novel.
Conversations with Friends is a fast-paced, witty literary novel from the perspective of a twenty-year-old student and poet, Frances. Frances is best friends with Bobbi, who also used to be her girlfriend, but now their inseparable mates. Bobbi is everything that Frances is not, outgoing, blunt and vain. Frances is a cool-headed and extremely observant young woman who comes across quite darkly.
The novel starts with Bobbi and Frances going to a journalist’s house to be observed. The journalist, Melissa, is married to a somewhat failed actor Nick. What starts as a harmless relationship, between Frances and Melissa/Nick, turns into an intense and complicated affair which affects all parties involved.
It’s a hard story to explain, particularly with regards to why I enjoyed it. None of the characters were likable at all, Frances is particularly intense and frustrating and Bobbi doesn’t seem to have a redeeming point about her. But that’s what makes the characters human.
The writing is very superior, the kind of literary writing that a lot of authors take years to develop.
Sally was only 25 years old when she wrote this, and as a writer of 21 years, I greatly esteem to have her skills and understanding of words by the age of 25.
The themes of this story are fascinating! Feminism, poetry, alcoholism, relationships, divorce, depression, creativity, knowledge, escapism, capitalism, class and so much more. It covers so many topics in a space of one short affair and it deals with them in quite a lot of detail. At points, I think there were too many things going on and being pulled into questions. And at times the conversations Bobbi had with other students made no sense to me whatsoever. The conversations that Frances observed seemed to be clever simply for the fact they were difficult to understand. This is trickery that I’m not incredibly fond of, but it works in this novel.
There were some standout inclusions for me which made it a lot easier for me to sympathise with the main character of Frances. Throughout the novel she suffers from incredibly painful periods, which lead to vomiting, fainting, and hospital stays. The mystery of the illness is a plot point throughout the novel yet I could diagnose it from the beginning as it is a disorder I suffer from myself, along with 1 in 3 girls. It affects women during their periods and this is a topic that is still a very rare feature within stories, particularly stories that are produced within Ireland!
One of the other issues I had with the story was Frances’ frustrating lack of initiative and drive. She is 21 years old, my age, and has deep thoughts about not wanting to achieve anything or do anything in life. She wants to write but then doesn’t write creatively, actually quite maliciously, and luck has it that she makes some money from it.
The story is not without its faults but the writing is exceptional. I read it in a matter of days and enjoyed the whole experience. I looked forward to reading it at every sitting and I think that a lot of readers will enjoy it too. I will happily purchase whatever Sally Rooney writes next; and I hope that she writes something soon!
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