Review: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Anna: Read 11/26/18

I couldn’t stop reading this. It’s safe to say that I’m in love with Sally Rooney’s writing style- it’s exactly what I want in literary fiction with a modern setting. I also think it’s an accurate representation of my generation. It’s an accomplishment when a book involves technology without taking away from the quality of writing. Everything about this book feels so real. It captures the ideas and ideals of my generation so well, from fluidity when it comes to sexuality, to how frustrating it can be, as a full-time student, managing finances, friendships, and mental health.

I loved Frances as a character. All of the characterization was rich and complex, but especially the main four- Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa.The relationships were complicated and meticulously fleshed out, and the dialogue felt so realistic. I was impressed by the way Frances and Nick’s arguments were written, even over email. This book is aptly named Conversations with Friends as the complexity, frequency, and realness of these dialogues is something that defines this book. These characters actually have real, interesting conversations, which is something I appreciate. There’s nothing worse than fake, fluffy conversation.

Here are some things I didn’t like.

(Below is where the spoilers live!)

I loved this book all the way through, but it would have had even more of an impact without the last chapter. The fact that it implied that Frances is going to enter into a “relationship” with Nick again takes a way a bit from the chapters before.

Frances’s endometriosis diagnosis was a bit strange. I think reproduction problems are important to talk about in fiction, and too often periods aren’t even mentioned in literature, even in explicitly feminist fiction. Though I really appreciated that aspect, I wasn’t exactly sure of its purpose in the plot. All that comes to mind is that Frances being sick interfered with her fixing things with Bobbi and Nick. It also made her think about youthfulness, womanhood, and pregnancy in a different way, especially since she thought she was having a miscarriage when she first experienced the painful symptoms. I wait to read other people’s full reviews until after I write my own, so I will be looking into other takes on this when I finish writing this.

I thought Bobbi was really annoying. She felt so condescending and controlling over Frances, even at the end when Frances had grown a lot and developed her own “real personality.” I liked how complicated and undefined their relationship was, but I couldn’t get over how preachy and elitist Bobbi is throughout the book.

A huge pet peeve I have is how easy it was for Frances to get published. There is NO WAY that her story would have been published in a prestigious journal AND that she was paid royalties for it. Frances wrote the story in one sitting, sent it in unedited, AND it was the first prose she had ever written in her life. As writers and as someone who has worked in publishing, Alexis and I and are very familiar with the publication process. Maybe it’s easier to get published in a journal in Ireland, but I doubt it.

It was funny reading about Frances interning at a literary agency, because I did that. I can say that part was realistic!

This book does so many great things and I enjoyed reading this so much that I am still considering bumming it up a rating, despite the unsatisfying ending. I can’t wait to read Normal People by Sally Rooney soon!

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books

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