Category: General Adult Fiction
Author: Sally Rooney
Format: E-book via NetGalley, 304 pages
Publisher: Hogarth Crown Publishing
Pub Date: July 11, 2017
Summary from Publisher:
Frances is a cool-headed and darkly observant young woman, vaguely pursuing a career in writing while studying in Dublin. Her best friend and comrade-in-arms is the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi. At a local poetry performance one night, Frances and Bobbi catch the eye of Melissa, a well-known photographer, and as the girls are then gradually drawn into Melissa’s world, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband, Nick. However amusing and ironic Frances and Nick’s flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy, and Frances’s friendship with Bobbi begins to fracture. 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, terribly, with Bobbi.
Desperate to reconcile her inner life 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 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.
- From NetGalley
The novel, Conversations with Friends, by Sally Rooney is a formidable conversation on the complexity of relationship: friendship, love, sex—and the interconnectedness and fluidity of it—their thrill, their danger, their illogical compulsions.
It begins with Frances and Billie, two young women in college, friends who evolve into lovers, who meet through their poetry readings, a woman who wishes to write an article on them and their work. Melissa, the writer and photographer, in wanting to get closer to her subjects, invites the girls into her home and into her social circle.
From there, the circle permeates with social gatherings and connections that seem almost inevitable, ranging from the verbosity of intellectual and theoretical arguments, to the sensuality of sexual discourse and desire.
The plot of the book is rooted in its emotional development—a discourse in itself on what is not said, nor thought, but alluded to. This is the gift of the book, its character-driven clarity and depth. They move with an assurance of being exactly who the author wishes them to be in the story.
Bobbi, is an extroverted and attention-seeking lesbian, feminist, one who is both articulate as she is aggressive—and unsuspectingly sensitive. Melissa, is a wealthy, attractive, married, bisexual woman whose avant-garde style and social status arms her with a sense of power, control, and confidence. Nick, Melissa’s husband, born to wealth and natural giftedness, is accused of passivity and charm, afraid perhaps he is too good-looking to be taken seriously. And Frances, while known to be intelligent, if not more so than Bobbi, prefers to watch with calculated coldness, an astute observer and woman of few words—especially of those that express her feelings—she finds herself with debilitating trauma, both, of the physical and the repressed.
The book is not solely self-indulgent in the affairs of couples, but also has secondary plots that involve the weariness of estranged relationships with flawed parents.
At the same time, the book is also a novel that not only creates a venue for discussions at poetry readings, gallery openings, and dinner parties; its speaks to the act of writing as well. There are emails, chat messages, articles for publication, poetry readings, a short story publication. It seems the book is not only about the varying intellectual conversations amongst friends and lovers, but a comment on the boundaries, fluidity, and intentions of narrative—verbal, emotional, written, or otherwise.
The novel is rich in graphic sexuality, emotional turmoil, self-harm, and compulsion—and throws the moral compass of monogamy against the magnetized thrill of polyamorous love.
It is a love story that will immerse the reader into the world of women and men—and how they must navigate the relationships they are bound to, in friendship, in marriage, and in passion.
Characters: 4 stars
Plot: 4 stars
Language/Narrative: 4 stars
Dialogue: 4.5 stars
Pacing: 4 stars
Cover Design: 3 stars
A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada on behalf of Hogarth Crown Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of the book, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and timely review.
About the Author:
Sally Rooney was born in the west of Ireland in 1991. She studied English at Trinity Collge, Dublin, and her writing has been featured in The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly, and Granta.
- From novel