Off the Shelf: Conversations with Friends By Sally Rooney
Hogarth Publishing ISBN 978-0-451 49906-6 2017 325 pp
Review by Terry Kenneally
Praise for Conversations with Friends came early and often: “a bracing, miraculous debut”- The Millions; “A writer of rare confidence, with a lucid, exactly style…” Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker; “Rooney expertly captures what its like to be young today,” The Paris Review.
Conversations was Rooney’s debut novel. She followed it with, Normal People (previously reviewed in this column) which was adapted into a BBC series and shown on HULU recently, to rave reviews, including mine.
Conversations with Friends is a novel about two young women, Frances and Bobbi, who become involved in the lives of an older married couple, Nick and Melissa. In a way it’s a coming-of-age story, about Frances’s transition into a new social world, and her attempts to become a new kind of person. But, its also a romance. The story is told through the eyes of Frances.
“Bobbi and I,” the novel begins – because Frances still regards herself as one half of a twosome. They were girlfriends at a school for two years; now they are on their summer holidays from Trinity College Dublin, performing spoken word poetry as a double act.
After one performance, they follow Melissa, a photographer and essayist, home to the wealthy part of Dublin where she lives. Melissa says she wants to profile them for a prestigious magazine and they encounter her husband, Nick, a handsome actor.
This is the world of grownups who have grownup problems, but Bobbi and Frances do not know this yet. Bobbi, who is a lesbian, gravitates towards Melissa; Frances later embarks on an affair with Nick. The “Bobbi and I” unit is fractured. The novel charts the seven months that follow, tracking the effects of the affair on Frances.
From this reader’s perspective, if there is a negative about the book it’s Frances constantly wanting to have sex with Nick. It gets a tad bit boring. Otherwise, I found the book to be a Top Shelf read, not quite as good as Normal People, but certainly enjoyable.