Friendship, anarchy, and being invited to stay in someone’s French house: Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
Conversations With Friends is a funny, exciting, and sometimes darkly relatable novel about being in your early twenties and about how to live your life. The story is told by Frances, a twenty-one year old student living in Dublin who writes poetry that she performs with her best friend and ex-girlfriend Bobbi. When they meet the older journalist Melissa who wants to profile them, they are drawn into the world of Melissa and her actor husband Nick, a world of tension, money, and wine. Frances begins an affair with Nick and soon everything is complicatedly entwined as they all consider what they want and what they believe.
The prose is fresh and somehow distinctive, giving Frances’ observational view of the world whilst accurately describing minuscule feelings and emotions. The descriptions of the sensations of being a student and in your early twenties are particularly astute, for example Rooney’s accurate depiction of the feeling of writing an essay, isolating yourself from the world and then emerging to find everything feeling strangely novel. Frances’ disorientation with the world and with the way she is living comes through, particularly when she tries to deal with feeling down and discovering she has a chronic pain issue. Bobbi is another great character, someone whose truth is clouded by the way that Frances sees and describes her, but who shines through as lively and opinionated. The main characters are complex and messed up, arguing about love and ideology and hurting each other a lot.
Engaging and gripping, it is not as much the narrative as the character relationships and the prose that keep you reading. It is filled with dark humour and literary references alongside relatable emotions, tangled-up relationships, and some background discussion of sexuality, class, and mental health. Rooney has created an exciting and enjoyable read about friendship, love, and the imperfection of being twentysomething.