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Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Conversations with Friends (2017)

by Sally Rooney

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2774258,436 (3.42)6



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Conversations with Friends is the story of a university student in Dublin. Frances had a high school romance with her best friend, Bobbi. They still do spoken verses poetry acts together which leads to them meeting Melissa and Nick, an older couple. Melissa is a photographer who writes books, and Nick is an actor. All of them except for Frances are wealthy and she seems to feel the difference acutely though she's living on money her father sends her, and no one seems able to discern a difference in her status.
The book is written in first person POV in a sort of stream of consciousness. Frances is determined to be unknown and witty; in reality, she's mostly acerbic and unkind. She starts an affair with Nick who is possibly the most passive man I ever read about. And things mostly go downhill from there, though there's no flaming rows or wild scenes. Everyone is very civilized and urbane; retaliation is by sleeping with someone else and then telling.
The writing is spare and interesting though I do despise the style where dialogue is not set off from the rest of the story. When two people talked back and forth in the same paragraph without any quotes, I often found it confusing and had to stop and reread to figure out who said what. There's not much of a plot and not even much of an ending; the book is just a slice of these people's lives.
I read it because Ms. Rooney has been recommended by the critics based on her next book. I didn't hate it and I didn't love Conversations with Friends. I liked certain sentences or paragraphs very much:
The Bible made a lot more sense to me, almost perfect sense to me, if I pictured Bobbi as the Jesus character. She didn't deliver his lines entirely straight; often she pronounced them sarcastically, or with a weird, distant expression....It made sense to me that she would befriend adulteresses, and also that she would have a pack of disciples spreading her message.
I guess I'd say it's a clever book. I just wish I had liked the characters more or that it had more of a story. ( )
  N.W.Moors | Sep 15, 2018 |
Sally Rooney's protagonist, Frances, is a confused young woman. This book documents her conversations and some thoughts as she tries to work out who she is and who she wants to be. Her parents, her girlfriend, her lover, and her lover's wife don't really help. Many LT reviewers didn't like this book and I think much of that could be due to Frances being a character who is hard to get a handle on. But that's what she's meant to be, I think. Not a strong enough plot? Well, no, that's part of the nature of the story. Frances doesn't have a clear direction in her life. When she's sick, she doesn't even have a visible and prominent disease. I found the story somewhat disturbing because I could identify with aspects of Frances's confusion. Rooney does seem to me to be very perceptive about the subtle ways people interact with each other. I'd like to read more of her work to see how she handles a different type of situation. I note that her second novel is on the Man Booker long list and my local library is buying a copy - so I've put it on reserve. ( )
  oldblack | Sep 2, 2018 |
I really just couldn't get with this book. I pretty much constantly swung back and forth between boredom and annoyance. There was a distinct lack of likable people in this novel and while all characters of every book need not be likable, it is nice to have at least one person to get you through the pages. The protagonist of this novel was the worst! Ok, not the worst, she wasn't planning world domination or anything, she was just a self-absorbed, yet not very interesting portrait of a human. A human who is far more intriguing to herself than anyone else. The sort of person that had she been real I would have thought "yeah, she would write a book about herself." Banal. If I had to sum this book up in a word it would be 'banal.' Again, just not for me, but I'm sure it could work for other people. ( )
  Bookishleigh | May 24, 2018 |
I started off quite liking this book, despite the pretentious characters. Frances (our narrator) and Bobbi are best friends (and former lovers). They're students but also performance artists, and end up embroiled with an older married couple Melissa and Nick. They seem quote unhappy together - and Bobbi is clearly entranced by Melissa... but then Frances and Nick end up having an affair. Frances is quite detached and the relationship is quite odd ... and when Melissa finds out the four still all hang out together. Eventually Nick and Frances stop seeing each other but the hint at the end is that they'll get back together.
I started to get bored of this towards the end as very little was actually happening, and Frances's weird personality started to grate on me. ( )
  AHouseOfBooks | May 20, 2018 |
Best for: Those looking for a quick read about complicated relationships.

In a nutshell: Frances is a 21-year-old college student who writes poetry and performs it with her best friend / ex-girlfriend Bobbi. They meet writer Melissa, and her actor husband Nick, who is quite appealing to Frances. Events transpire.

Worth quoting:
“I didn’t know how to join in their new friendship without debasing myself for their attention.”
“Realising not only that hurting Bobbi’s feelings was within my power but that I had done it practically offhandedly and without noticing, made me uncomfortable.”
“I thought of myself as an independent person, so independent that the opinions of others were irrelevant to me.”

Why I chose it: I was at a Waterstones and picked the book up (it was prominently displayed on a table). The review pull quote across the top said “Fearless, sensual writing.” I immediately put it down, because I’ve not ever found myself enjoying writing that I would characterise as ‘sensual.’ The shop manager noticed and spent the next two minutes trying to sell me on the book, and to ignore that quote. I acquiesced, and am happy I did so.

Author Sally Rooney has an interesting way with words. With this book, she is able to create characters that I don’t think we’re meant to root for or against, but to just be interested in. The book is told from Frances’s first person perspective, so the other three main characters come to us through that lens, and it’s clear that we’re meant to recognize that what Frances is telling us isn’t everything there is to know about them. And I don’t mean this in an ‘unreliable narrator’ / ‘there’s a mystery to be solved’ sort of way, just that with Ms. Rooney’s writing, I feel that she understands how little we all know about the people in our lives.

The book centers around the ideas of love and relationships. The primary focus at times seems to be romantic relationships, but I think the book also does a good job at looking at friendships as well as relationships with our families of origin. How much do we choose to share of ourselves with our partners? Our parents? How do we make those calculations? How do those relationships shape us? How much do we re-frame and reformulate those relationships as a way to help us understand ourselves?

Frances’s character develops over time, and you can see her taking more steps to get to know who she is. In some moments its easy to forget that she’s still in college and has to sort out the big life questions like ‘what do I want to be when I grow up,’ and I think that’s mostly due to Ms. Rooney’s writing. Yes, there are some eye-roll-worthy moments that those of us who have been out of college for many years might look at and think ‘awww, I remember debating that in the pub. How sweet,’ but Ms. Rooney doesn’t condescend to her characters. Frances and Bobbi are younger than I am (I’m not quite old enough to be Frances’s mother, but I could be her aunt) but they aren’t acting especially immature, at least not in unexpected ways. I think they’re relatable, even if the actions they’re taking aren’t ones I’d necessarily take.

So thanks, Waterstones bookseller. I DID like it! ( )
  ASKelmore | Apr 9, 2018 |
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Progressivamente l'attesa ha iniziato a sembrare meno un'attesa e più come se la vita altro non era che questo: il diversivo delle incombenze da assolvere mentre la cosa che aspetti continua a non succedere.
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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. --Amazon… (more)

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