book review: Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

32187419

 

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS by Sally Rooney
★★★★★
Hogarth, 2017

 

This was stupidly good. After recently loving Rooney’s sophomore novel Normal People my expectations for Conversations With Friends were high, though I was also a bit wary; in these situations I’m always afraid an author’s debut isn’t going to live up. I needn’t have worried. This was perfect from start to finish. You know that feeling when you miss a stair and your stomach lurches briefly before you land – this was that sensation in book form.

Once again I was impressed with Rooney’s writing; it’s simple and seemingly effortless, but the kind of natural and conversational cadence she achieves is no easy feat. The simultaneous intelligence and lack of life experience of the narrator, Frances, were captured so convincingly; from the start this was a person that I wanted to understand, whose head I wanted to inhabit briefly. Sally Rooney writes about interpersonal dynamics with such skill and ease and sharp observation, and that was the shining point of this novel, but whenever Frances looked inward, those moments were also captured with the same unnerving clarity. I related to Frances and I didn’t; I saw bits of myself in her and I found bits of her unreachable. But Rooney made me care, she earned my investment as I watched with sympathy and frustration and anxiety as Frances attempted to navigate an awkward, ill-thought-out affair with an older married man, a dynamic which only complicated her limited understanding of love, class, status, artistic freedom, and belonging.

If you can’t handle books about unlikable, selfish people, you aren’t going to enjoy this, and in that sense alone I don’t necessarily believe this book transcends its premise. It’s about unlikable, selfish people, many of whom are blind to their privilege. It’s not about the kind of people you want to be, or want to be friends with. But if you’re willing to sacrifice likability for realism, and an unpredictable plot for moments of startling self-reflection, this is the book for you. I actually ended up preferring this to Normal People, but both are a solid 5 stars and I am simply delighted that Sally Rooney’s books have entered my life.

30 thoughts on “book review: Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

    • Ahhh you’re much too kind but thank you so much ❤ I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on this one! Because the characters are wonderfully awful and it is just SO compelling and perceptive.

      Like

    • I’m actually very glad I read Normal People first, because I think if I’d read it after Conversations With Friends it would have been a bit of a letdown. It feels very much like Normal People is the debut novel and this is the sophomore, not the other way around. But I just love her writing so much. So excited to see what she does next.

      Like

  1. This is a great review, I can’t wait to read this one now! Normal People was just shy of a 5-star read for me, but when I finished I felt like I HAD to read more from Sally Rooney. I put in a library hold for Conversations with Friends immediately. Her writing is incredible. I’m hoping I’ll love CwF even more than Normal People, so I’m encouraged by the fact that it worked that way for you. 🙂

    Like

  2. YESSS! I loved this one; definitely a favorite for the year!! It’s so funny when you said you related to Frances but you didn’t, because I felt the EXACT same way and even wrote about it in my review too! I’m even more interested in reading NORMAL PEOPLE now, I’m so glad you liked both!! 😀
    Btw, here is my review of CONVERSATIONS:
    https://hannahandherbooks.com/2018/11/21/conversations-with-friends-sally-rooney/

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just read your review and it is so funny how similar our thoughts were on this one! This book was just perfection. It ticked all of my boxes. And I felt the exact same way about Frances – the main thing I related to was her preoccupation with the way other people perceived her, how she was worried that her introversion would be seen as not having a personality. That was a very relatable struggle. But at the same time I wasn’t like, THIS CHARACTER IS LITERALLY ME because so many of her decisions were things I would never ever do. But I still felt strongly connected to her and I was just SO invested. I’m happy you loved this one so much as well, cannot wait to hear your thoughts on Normal People!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me too- it’s frightening how similar our thoughts were! I agree that despite feeling a strong connection, she made some absolutely wack decisions that I would have handled differently. I was totally addicted to the book though! I’m eager to read NORMAL PEOPLE. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes!! I almost felt like saying ‘I swear I wrote my review without having read yours,’ lol!! But I love seeing eerily similar reading experiences like this, because even though so much of reading is subjective, clearly Rooney achieved what she set out to do with this novel… assuming she did in fact want to fill multiple people with a lot of anxiety.

        Liked by 1 person

    • YES! Like I said I preferred Conversations, but I’m kind of glad I started with Normal People for that reason, so I could save the best for last. But I don’t think you could go wrong either way!

      Liked by 1 person

    • At least you will be able to read her in 2019 so I don’t need to worry about you waiting a whole year. But I eagerly await the end to your book buying ban because I’m dying to know what you will think of her writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have a feeling you’d prefer Conversations With Friends, but then again I’m glad I read Normal People first so I could save the better one for last. I don’t mind the covers but they REALLY do not suit the books very well. I like the color scheme on the US cover of Normal People but the graphics are pretty misleading.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was leaning towards Normal People first (if only because it is more recent and I have seen more reviews for it lately), but maybe I’ll just buy both books at the same time and then decide depending on my mood.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful review! I’ve had this one my shelf for too long, but now I’m much more excited about picking it up. When done right unlikable characters and complicated relationships are my favorite things to read about, and I completely trust your opinion on both those things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES those are my favorite things as well. I would actually be really surprised if you didn’t love this; I feel like we have a lot of the same contemporary Irish women author faves (O’Neill, McBride, Burns) and there are definitely pronounced similarities in the way they write flawed female characters. Very excited to hear your thoughts on Rooney!!

      Like

  4. […] 3. Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney.  I think Sally Rooney is one of the most perceptive writers working today.  The little observations she makes about human nature are subtle and searing.  Rooney’s character work in both Conversations with Friends and Normal People is just outstanding – she writes about real, ordinary, flawed individuals who I somehow desperately want to read about, despite how real and ordinary and flawed they are, or maybe because of that.  Full review here. […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s