A review of the novel “Conversations With Friends” by Sally Rooney

I so admired Rooney’s second novel “Normal People” (and the television adaptation) that I later went on to read her first novel “Conversations With Friends” (which is itself to be adapted for television). This initial work was written while Rooney was still studying for her Masters in Dublin and the point of view is that of Frances, a 21 year old nearing the end of her literature degree in the same city. Her best friend Bobbi is a fellow student and fellow poet and, while at school together, they had a relationship.

In the first sentence of the novel, the two young students meet Melissa who is 37 and a photographer. Later they meet Melissa’s 32 year old husband Nick, an actor with mental health issues. The narrative spans less than a year and is overwhelmingly about the inter-relationships between these four characters. 

The events are pretty commonplace – friendships, relationships, illness, nobody dies – and Rooney’s style of writing is sparse, without flamboyance, but I really enjoyed the novel.

And Frances herself is an interesting, not always likeable, character: “I thought of myself as an independent person, so independent that the opinions of others were irrelevant to me”“I felt that I was a damaged person who deserved nothing”, and “The world was like a crumpled ball of newspaper to me, something to kick around”.


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