I must admit, when I opened the book and noticed the lack of quotation marks when it came to the characters dialogue, it completely threw me. What threw me more, however, was how easily I could still distinguish paragraph from dialogue as if the quotation marks were there the whole time. There’s not much to be said about that. It feels more like an endless stream of thought and dialogue which is quite cool, but I’d be interested to see if there was another reason. ANYWAY, aside from punctuation, the book is genuinely fascinating. The subject is quite simple at a surface level, but it explores the heavy complexities of humans and how we interact with each other and with love.
Despite loving it, it’s not the type of book I can really sum up. I’m usually very good at finding a way to compile it into a few sentences but there’s so much to it that I want to bring to light in the blurb. Thus, here is the blurb as written on the back of the book:
“Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed and observant. A student in Dublin and an aspiring writer, at night she performs spoken word with her best friend Bobbi, who used to be her girlfriend. When they are interviewed and then befriended by Melissa, a well-known journalist who is married to Nick, an actor, they enter a world of beautiful houses, raucous dinner parties and holidays in Brittany, beginning a complex ménage á quatre. But when Frances and Nick get unexpectedly closer, the sharply witty and emotion-averse Frances is forced to honestly confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time.”
Sally Rooney, a young Irish writer, gives an outstanding debut with Conversations With Friends. The characters are plucked straight from the centre of society, and help to drive a narrative that picks apart the complexities of modern life and love. Conversations about monogamy, intense jealousy and representations of mental health make for a whirlwind of a book.
It’s quite easy to write a book about friendship and love that is just one long conversation and get it wrong. It’s very difficult to achieve greatness in this form of literature. Sally Rooney, however, achieves a smooth brilliance like it is of no effort to her. It is important because a book that relies heavily on interpersonal connections and on the conversations we have are the best for impacting our own perceptions. I was reading on my commute to London, struggling with my anxiety, and feeling incredibly reflective because of certain pieces of beautiful wisdom that came from small vignettes within the book. Frances is an emotionally distant and sensitive woman who we really see evolve and devolve as the book progresses. We get a familiar insight into the confusing youthfulness of Frances, and of the many moral dilemmas that arise.
The wording and vocabulary used is more than the usual colloquial mainstream vein that tends to appeal to a larger crowd. It is intelligent and articulate in a way that it doesn’t downplay the potential of its reader’s own intellect. This leads us to not only enjoy the narrative of the ever-dramatic set of events, but we get to engage in a series of important debates about society. The book itself was compared to Fleabag, and the style does feel like Phoebe Walter-Bridges taboo-busting, fourth-wall-breaking atmosphere. We are the spirit in the room, without a direct effect on the story, being impacted.
I struggle to write a review simply because, out of many books, this is one that needs to be experienced rather than summarised. It can be debated and talked about after, but a summary would not quite encapsulate the size of what is covered in a relatively short novel. Regardless, Conversations With Friends is exactly what it sounds like, but without the fairy dust. It gets down to the bones of the body and opens up our wounds to the public. Insecurity is put on display, and we watch as the toxicity of jealousy, comparison and competition interrupt a hearts journey to healing.
Now go read it and come back and chat with me about it!