Conversations with Friends

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Member Reviews

These characters are kinda horrible and the story is kinda pretentious, and yet it’s brilliant. Sally Rooney is a bit magic, isn’t she?
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I have read Sally Rooney’s writing out of sync. I started with Normal People – which I enjoyed but thought was a bit of a victim of its own hype. I decided to read Conversations with Friends recently and now I think I get it.
Sally Rooney really does have a writing voice that exudes her talent with every single word. She manages to show the awkwardness of relationships – platonic, familial, and sexual. She frustrates you by the things that she doesn’t say and yet makes you feel compelled to read more. 

The story of Frances and her relationships with the people around her are tumultuous and confusing. We watch her grow and develop but never quite being on the same level as her counterparts – whether this is due to age, experience, or social class is left for you to determine but you cannot but help root for her. You want things to end well or her even though you are distinctly aware that Conversations with Friends is not that kind of book.

My one issue with Conversations with Friends is the same issue that I had with Normal People. It is the stylistic choice to flout rules about speech marks. I prefer my books to have them. However, if that is the only complaint to find about a book then I guess that it is worthy of the highest praise.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney is available now.

For more information regarding Faber & Faber (@FaberBooks) please visit
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Just stunning. I felt like I was living and breathing the lives of the characters. This and Normal People are two of my favourite books of recent years. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
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Conversations with Friends is a really good book. It is trying at bit at times. but the descriptions of endometriosis were scarily accurate.
Sally Rooney is definitely an author to watch.
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I love this book a lot more than I really expected to, because I don't really relate to the characters, or even most of their experiences and I'm not completely sure that I liked any of them either? But this book truly pressed into a lot of things I have really specific emotions about, and I feel like it did so in a non manipulative, vaguely unintentional way.
I've never read a book where the characters describe their issues with menstruation in a way that mirrors my own, whilst also presenting this informaton as quite matter of fact. It's a thing that happens to Frances and she just endures it, because really what is the alternative?
I also found the framing of power dynamics in interpersonal relationshps to be really interesting and concise. This book really dissected imbalances in relationships that aren't just romantic, but with your peers and your colleagues and your friends, but doesn't linger on that really. There were also a few sections I highlighted where Frances was discussing sexual consent and the almost grey areas around that in a way that I found really relatable and will probably discuss outside of conversations about this book, I think.
I expect this book to linger with me for a while, and I'm not really sure I can explain why, because I'm not totally sure I understand why.
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So nice to read a book with a bisexual protagonist. I loved that it was set in Ireland too. How is it that this author was born in 1991? I have wasted my life. Really enjoyed this anyway, devoured it in 24 hours. 4 stars because maybe the storyline isn’t the most original, young people come into a social scene and cause havoc in other people’s relationship. It reminded me a fair bit of I Love Dick and then it referenced it in the last scene! The characters were so good though, and the themes. I loved the subtle exploration of self harm, content note for that. Either way really glad to read this book thanks Netgalley!
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Utterly wonderful and utterly deserving of all the plaudits which have been heaped upon it. One of the wittiest and most incisive portrayals of what it's like to be a woman in your early 20s - your loves, your friendships and your desires. The friendship/love affair between Frances and Bobbi feels real, complete with all the over the top, psuedo intelligent posturing that everyone does at that age. An almost perfect read and one which deserves to become a modern classic.
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Frances and Bobbi are two young performance poets who attract the attention of an older couple and an affair is conducted. Sally Rooney had the unusual distinction of having a story in Granta prior to being published in book form.  And what a story that was. 

So my expectations were very high.  Unfortunately, Conversations with Friends cannot sustain interest for novel length.  While she is super-skilled at dialogue, the characters are not very likeable or dislikeable, just hip bores.

The most interesting part is where Frances becomes very stuck for money and some empathy creeps in but this mood does not last. 

Still, looking forward very much to her future works.
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A fab holiday read that I raced through in Sardinia this summer. A complex web of loyalties and ties which really keeps the reader on their toes with a fabulously realised setting that really made me feel like I was there in the south of France with Frances in this mysterious and disorientating world.  I think my older students would love this book and I will be recommending it to them as I'm sure they'll find plenty to think and talk about in this hugely contemporary 21st-century relationships novel.
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I seem to have read a lot of books that are set in the past recently and whilst I love reading about history I was craving something a little different.  I'd seen a lot of buzz about Conversations with Friends, it had been sitting unread on my Kindle for a while and I'd been dying to read it so I queue jumped it to the top of my To Read list.  Initially I struggled a little, it has a very different writing style - the last few books I'd read had been very lyrical and this felt starkly different but once I 'got' it I couldn't put it down.

Telling the story of Frances, her friend (and ex-girlfriend) Bobbi and their friendships and relationships with married couple Nick and Melissa, Conversations with Friends is a very modern book which is engaging, thought-provoking and very intelligent.

I'm not sure if we are supposed to like any of the characters in the book; Frances is very cool and detached until we peel back her layers, Bobbi is combative, highly intelligent and argumentative, Melissa is domineering and overpowering whilst Nick is seemingly weak and a push over.  However, as the book went on I did connect with them more, Sally Rooney creates characters with depth; complex people with complex lives and emotions that aren't black and white because life isn't like that.  Frances and Bobbi for instance are, on the surface, confident, accomplished women.  Performing spoken word poetry, studying at Trinity College, Dublin, mixing with successful people and interning at a publishing house they appear to have the world at their feet but neither one is completely happy.  Melissa and Nick too seem to have a perfect life; she is a successful photographer and writer, he is a successful actor and they live in a beautiful home and holiday in France for the summer, but they sleep in separate rooms and there are hints at a catastrophe in the history of their marriage.

Conversations With Friends isn't a book that is page after page of action, it is a quiet, thoughtful read that really makes you think.  There are some very poignant moments in the book, it deals with some very heavy issues (the cover of this book really does it a disservice and makes it look far lighter than it really is) some passages were so beautifully written that I really connected with them.  There was one passage in particular that perfectly explained how I had been feeling about something and it took my breath away.  I was blown away by the writing in this book; there are no superfluous words or filler sentences, it is perfectly measured and a wonderful read.
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Conversations with Friends is an intense character study, following the lives of two young women who were once lovers and are now best friends. Frances and Bobbi are twenty-one-year-old college students in Dublin, where they perform spoken-word poetry in night clubs and interact with the various artists and literati of the city. One night they meet photo-journalist Melissa, who wants to write an article about their work, and their lives are changed forever.

Frances is cool and calm in the face of strong emotion – she is darkly funny and yet deeply serious. Bobbi is beautiful and confident, and often self-involved when it comes to understanding the emotions of others. When the two young women are thrown into the lives of Melissa and her handsome actor husband Nick, their beliefs about themselves and others are challenged in unexpected ways. Bobbi, who is confident in her attraction to women, becomes obsessed with Melissa. Meanwhile, sexually-ambiguous Frances finds Nick intriguing despite herself – he is apathetic yet attractive, and she can’t help but seek him out to spend more time with him. 

At the start, Frances is mostly amused by her flirtation with Nick – it is as if she is practicing for a more meaningful future relationship, both in conversations and in the bedroom. She sees him as a negative symbol of wealth and patriarchy, which is ironic because it doesn’t bother her that her dad pays her bills. Frances’ analysis of her own thoughts and feelings are self-conscious, and her intellectual debates with friends will make you cringe with their self-aware awkwardness. In her naivete, Frances explores the complications of intimacy, and the misunderstandings that stem from email and messenger conversations – feelings are often confused, and both Nick and Frances assume the other is cold and lacking emotion when in fact it is simply lost in translation.

Throughout the novel, Frances’ various relationships take on new meanings and fill new roles in her life – with Bobbi, with her mother and father, and especially with Nick and even Melissa. Intellectual stimulation is the most important aspect of Frances’ life, and yet she is forced to reconcile herself to the physical world as well. She has always placed mind over body, but eventually health concerns force her to pay attention to her physicality and put herself first.

The conversations between friends, lovers, acquaintances, and even adversaries are always at the forefront of this intelligent, thought-provoking novel. It is a novel of ideas, although they are always applied thoughtfully to the characters and their development. At first this reminded me of another 2017 novel, Elif Batuman’s The Idiot – both books feature a naïve young female protagonist, using deadpan humour and probing intelligence to explore a troubling relationship in the age of the internet. However, Frances is much less endearing and less likeable, which isn’t necessary a bad thing. The problem for me was the ending, in which it didn’t seem that Frances truly developed or changed at all – despite all her experiences, there was no real growth, and that was disappointing. However, the strength of this novel is in its concepts and conversations, written in a unique prose style that I savoured throughout Frances’ oddly compelling journey – despite or maybe because of Frances’ many issues, I found this book impossible to put down and I will be seeking out more by the talented Sally Rooney.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Hmmm. There is some great writing here, fantastic observations of some of the least attractive aspects of our thoughts and behaviours. But this was not, for me, a good book.

We see little evidence that our narrator is as intelligent and creative as she is supposed to be. She is utterly focused on how she is perceived by others. I have to stress that this is demonstrated brilliantly, but I think this would have been a much stronger book if the character was more well-rounded or at least had become so towards the end of the novel. As it is, even when awful things happened to her I struggled to care. This vacuous self-absorption is all there is to the character. I thought perhaps this was the point but the lacklustre ending makes me think that I am not seeing what the author intended here. I'm not convinced this is worthy of the hype it seems to be generating.
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Isn't it wonderful when a book lives up to hype?
I loved the book. I loved the friendships and dramas. Its real and warm.
Wonderful writing by Rooney. A truly captivating and engaging read.
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When you’re twenty-one years old, you think you’ve got relationships down – you’re not as susceptible to shallow or fleeting infatuations (or rather, you accept infatuations for what they are – shallow and fleeting); you’ve probably had you’re heart-broken; you ‘know what you want’ and ‘commitment’ seems a reasonable proposition. But actually, there’s still a lot to learn on the relationship front. A lot. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney demonstrates exactly that.

Frances is 21 – a university student, aspiring writer, idealistic, and aloof. Her best-friend Bobbi, is charismatic, opinionated and beautiful. Once lovers, the two women now perform poetry together. They’re discovered by Melissa, an established writer in her mid-30s, and are quickly drawn into Melissa’s world, impressed by her sophistication, her beautiful home and her handsome actor husband, Nick.

I had wanted Melissa to take an interest in me, because we were both writers, but instead she didn’t seem to like me and I wasn’t sure I liked her. I didn’t have the option not to take her seriously, because she had published a book, which proved that lots of other people took her seriously even if I didn’t. At twenty-one, I had no achievements or possessions that proved I was a serious person.

But it is Bobbi that Melissa favours, leaving Frances to embark on an affair with Nick. The novel charts the months that follow, exposing the challenges in the overlapping but unequal relationships between the four.

Frances and Bobbi are all puffed-up-intelligence and ideals, but they’re also naive. Or maybe thoughtless. Or self-righteous. Or maybe I’ve just forgotten what it’s like to be 21 – either way, Rooney doesn’t try to garner sympathy for her characters, allowing the reader to feel quite okay about not liking them much at all. That said, there’s lots to love about this book – start with Rooney’s excellent dialogue (I’ll overlook the lack of punctuation) and staccato delivery  –

Over summer I missed periods of intense academic concentration which helped to relax me during term time. I liked to sit in the library to write essays, allowing my sense of time and personal identity to dissolve as the light dimmed outside the windows. I would open fifteen tabs on my web browser while producing phrases like ‘epistemic rearticulation’ and ‘operant discursive practices’. I mostly forgot to eat on days like this, and emerged in the evening with a fine, shrill headache.

What is particularly interesting in this story is that Rooney examines infidelity from multiple angles, predominantly without judgement.  She explores the motivation for the affair – Frances gives in to desire, obtaining what she thought she couldn’t have and assumes Nick’s motivation is the same. However, as the story progresses you discover that there are far more complex emotions at play.

I thought bitterly: he has all the power and I have none. This wasn’t exactly true, but that night it was clear to me for the first time how badly I’d underestimated my vulnerability.

3.5/5 At face value, light, but there’s more lurking beneath. I’ll be reading Rooney again.

I received my copy of Conversations with Friends from the publisher, Faber & Faber, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Sally Rooney has crafted a bewitching story of an illicit affair with her debut novel “Conversation With Friends”. The books predominant role is with Frances, a 21 year old student who embarks on an affair with Nick, the older husband of a recently acquired friend. What makes the book so interesting is it can be viewed and appreciated from a multitude of angles. At first it’s the dialogue, the synergy between Frances and best friend Bobbi is pulsating and captivating, it’s what keeps the books fire alive. It is also interesting as the contrast between her relationship with Nick is vast, but the dialogue is free flowing nonetheless and adds to the constant comic value within the novel. The book constantly challenges perception of how people view each other and how it matters? Its captures the gap between youth and adulthood perfectly, demonstrating the vulnerability and weakness in both and playing it out perfectly through the characters. Everyone in the book is as detestable as they are loveable but it makes it more of an interesting read. The book tackles the intensity of friendships and relationships with a fierce velocity and its impact is a powerful one. However you want to view and read this book, its sure to be enjoyable and it’s no surprise it’s been called the must read book this summer.
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Frances is 21 and studying in Dublin.  She works part-time for a literary agent and also as a performance artist with her best friend and ex-lover Bobbi.  When they come in the social circle of an older writer and her actor husband Frances jumps into an affair with the married man and her life changes completely.

There are so many of this type of book out there at the moment.  Stories of the disaffected but vaguely privileged Millennial Generation who 'study' and have short-term jobs and internships whilst avoiding careers.  I hoped this book would be different as it is not set in New York and the lead character is not rich, sadly this was not the case.  Falling into every cliche of the genre I just wanted to scream with frustration at the self-indulgent characters.
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Set in modern-day Dublin, Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends ostensibly tells the tale of Frances and Bobbi, ex-girlfriends and spoken word poets who find themselves befriending photographer/journalist Melissa and her actor husband Nick and setting in motion a chain of events as they become embroiled with the couple’s social lives and they with theirs. If you like books that are focused on the complicated relationships people can become entangled in, despite their better judgment, then Conversations with Friends is one for you.

I will be honest upfront – I appreciated the craft in this debut novel but this was not a book for me, I just don’t get the fuss surrounding it and I don’t think it’s all that darkly witty or exquisitely alive, as the marketing would have me believe. Was it an easy read? Yes, absolutely, the writing style was simple enough to follow and I devoured it in two days. Did I enjoy the book whilst it lasted? Yes, I suppose. Will I remember this book in weeks to come? To be brutally honest, probably not.

I am not too far dissimilar to the novel’s protagonist, Frances, on paper – I’m of a similar age, I went to university, and I too am probably of this “seminal” age in terms of my life. Even so, for me, the large problem in Conversation with Friends lays in the choice of Frances as a narrator. She sees herself as ironic and cool-headed, some might say cold and detached, to the point of seeming unconcerned about the events that are happening to her. At times, this works well – for example, it is easy to see Frances’ attempts at suppressing any feelings or emotions she might be having (or perhaps not having at all) for Nick, but on other occasions it simply prevents a reader from empathising with her or rooting for her character at all. The sex scenes between them, for me, were excruciating to read because they were so stilted and not in any way even fleetingly intimate. Yet I was told by Frances that sometimes they were passionate and that she enjoyed sex with Nick – I saw no evidence of that or, at least, Frances was incapable of expressing it to readers. And I’m not entirely sure she was as unaffected as she made out. I have read books with unlikable protagonists and narrators alike and, despite this biased account of the story, I have always managed to take some kind of joy in reading from their perspective all the same. Sadly, for me, this wasn’t the case with Frances – she goes through some pretty horrifying personal and medical issues but all are told in her clinically detached voice and so, if she doesn’t care, why should a reader?

I liked Nick. I probably shouldn’t have, but I did. Maybe it says something psychologically about me that I liked him best when he was being a little bit pathetic or cowardly? Or when he snarked at Frances with something glib, but also very accurate, about their relationship. (See: “Who? he said. The one who isn’t interested in me any more, or the one who’s just using me for sex?”) Perhaps this is Sally Rooney’s entire intention and I fell right into that trap, just as Frances did. Their conversations admittedly are quite funny and engaging. But we are never truly allowed to get to understand Nick, or his morality, or his decisions, because we see him through Frances’ eyes, and she isn’t the most unbiased mediator. Everything he does or says is reported by her, but Sally Rooney never lets the reader know whether Frances’ judgment of him is accurate or not, so we must draw our own conclusions. When it came down to it, I even liked Nick’s wife Melissa, despite Frances’ half-hearted attempts later in the novel to subtly portray her as some kind of cold, negligent wife who was jealous of Nick’s affair with a much-younger woman, much to Melissa’s convincing protestations that she is not jealous in the least.

Even Bobbi felt incomplete, I never truly saw her as a fleshed out character and part of that is due to Frances’ viewpoint – though her best friend and ex-girlfriend alike, she still felt distant somehow. You can never truly know another person inside and out because you can’t be in their head – this is a fact, it’s accurate to life, but it’s also intensely frustrating to a reader trying to figure out a character. I don’t feel like I particularly knew Bobbi (or even Frances) any better by the time I reached the end of the book. Likewise, close relatives of Frances (i.e. her own mother and father) felt distant and shadowy figures, not quite fully formed characters for the reader, and a potentially intriguing plotline concerning her father’s personal issues was never focused on. Instead, Conversations with Friends was a completely self-absorbed story about Frances’ dramatic inner turmoil that actually wasn’t all that turbulent, or at least not anywhere near as turbulent as it could/should have been to a narrator who wasn’t quite as flat and (attempting to be) apathetic about her own life.

Ultimately, I felt that this book didn’t go anywhere – there were no big climactic moments and the book just seemed to trundle on in a flat trajectory, there weren’t really peaks and troughs to the experience. That isn’t to say that there weren’t events within the narrative that were dramatic – quite the contrary, in fact, several plot points are very dramatic, but they are all told in that same self-absorbed, but emotionally detached, narrative voice. Rooney writes in a firmly tell-don’t-show manner, but the problem is that her vehicle for “telling” reports all of her conversations with friends in such a disengaged way that I was never sure I was being told anything of real value.

Perhaps that is the entire point of the book; it proves that life doesn’t have a dramatic rise-and-fall storybook trajectory in which the story closes on the last page of the book with a definitive happy (or sad) ending, all wrapped up nice and neatly with a bow on top. This book ended without actually giving any sense of closure; if anything, the ending suggests a cyclical and (probably) self-destructive trajectory of these characters. They don’t go anywhere because they’re still there, doing the same things, despite anyone’s better judgment… because life is like that, and if we as people don’t always learn from our mistakes, then why should we require a book’s protagonist to do so? Why should an author be duty bound to make us like (or even just empathise with) their protagonist – and is it wrong to expect that from an author and their work? Despite all this, at the end of the day, I have questions, not answers, from this book and, because of that, Conversations with Friends feels unfinished and, for me, a little unsatisfying to read.
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Conversations with Friends - 5 star review, for Netgalley

Conversations with Friends is a gift. I read it compulsively in a weekend, though it never felt like I was reading words on a page, but in a conversation with the narrator, Frances. My initial thoughts on finishing, as I noted in my Goodreads review, was that it was "unsettling and fantastic", and it has taken me a week since then to think about it properly.

Frances is a young, bright student at Trinity College, and when we meet her is reading for a literary agent by day, and writing and performing spoken word pieces by night with her best friend and ex girlfriend, Bobbi. The story begins with the two women meeting a third woman Melissa, who is a writer and photographer who wants to write a profile of them. The meeting is introduced by a photograph Melissa takes of the pair, and Frances's reflection on how she and Bobbi look to herself, to Melissa, and to an objective observer.

This reflection and observation of the dynamics of the groups through which she moves, and how she fits into them, becomes Frances's main concern as she narrates the next few months of her life, and what happens when she and Bobbi, their relationship already complicated, become friends with Melissa and her husband Nick. The glamorous older couple intrigue, and are intrigued by the younger pair, and an affair within the group threatens all of the relationships within it.

I felt myself be drawn in totally by this sharp and self aware, though at times naive and insecure protagonist. Sally Rooney has managed to make a group of characters I am sure I would personally dislike incredibly interesting, and kept me going back for more. I can't wait to see what she does next.
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