Conversations with Friends
By: Sally Rooney
Narrator: Aoife McMahon
Penguin Random House Audio: Random House Audio
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Release Date: July 11, 2017
8 Hours and 22 Minutes
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
A sharply intelligent novel about friendship, lust, jealousy, and the unexpected complications of adulthood in the 21st century
Frances is a cool-headed and darkly observant young woman, vaguely pursuing a career in writing while studying in Dublin. Her best friend and comrade-in-arms is the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi. At a local poetry performance one night, Frances and Bobbi catch the eye of Melissa, a well-known photographer, and as the girls are then gradually drawn into Melissa’s world, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband, Nick. However amusing and ironic Frances and Nick’s flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy, and Frances’s friendship with Bobbi begins to fracture. As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally, terribly, with Bobbi.
Desperate to reconcile her inner life to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances’s intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment. Written with gem-like precision and marked by a sly sense of humor, Conversations with Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth, and the messy edges of female friendship.
With occasionally luscious prose and excellent narration I kept listening to the story of Frances, an Irish college student who has never heard of endometriosis – a woman who has long had painful menses and hasn’t heard of this very common disorder. I kept listening even though I had no idea why this story was written – it’s a year or more in Frances’s, and her friends’, lives, relationships come and go, people have depression, alcoholism, but there’s no overriding development. Frances at the end of the story is pretty much the same as at the start except that she knows why she has bad cramps. And, she never seems older than a petulant teenager.
She is also a product of her time, technology is the mode of the day and at one point she spends a lot of time trying to understand her relationships by reading through years of texts. There are a lot of conversations with her friends, and with her mother in other ways too. Her relationship with her father is alcohol fueled and cryptic; it is perhaps the one where Frances is the most adult.
The prose itself is well done, i especially noted a phrase from one line:
I hated them both with the intensity of passionate love.
p. 267 CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS
Irish literature, has long had a tradition of darkness; a stark way of dealing with reality. Even though the “troubles” in Ireland are mostly over the tradition of darkness in art is still strong. I had a lot of this in college lit courses and nowadays I am a bit more escapist. If the meaning of a story is hiding in a book’s darkness, the meaning of a book may be lost on me. If you enjoy these dark, moody pieces, you may enjoy CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS.
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