Book Review: Conversations With Friends, Sally Rooney

I’ve just turned the last page on Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends and I’m not entirely sure how I feel. It’s one hell of a complicated book. On one hand I love how it brings up so many questions that we currently face in the modern world. Patriarchy, politics and people, all there to be scrutinised. On the other, I’m struggling with how all the characters seem gratuitously self destructive. Especially Frances, the main character, though this may just be a reflection of myself. I struggled with her hostility and lack of communication mostly because I’m the dead opposite. I would never isolate myself so fully like Frances does when the going gets rough. However I believe that all the above is what makes it a brilliant book. 

It makes you feel uncomfortable and I physically cringed at parts. I also found myself having to call it a day, after reading at length, because I couldn’t face Frances being yet again nihilistic with all (and I mean ALL) her relationships. The cold fish approach to everything drove me crazy, the inner monologue in contrast to what was actually said made me want to scream but this is exactly what the author wants. I back this up with the lack of speech marks, clearly a sign that there is meant to be a blur between what is said and what we want to say.  It’s an expression that behaviour is a facade and often we act in opposition to our true feelings because we don't want to be seen as paranoid, needy, high maintenance - delete as appropriate. 


But as I said, this is what makes it such an excellent novel. True I’m a hopeless romantic and do enjoy a happy ever after but happy endings aren't reality and we need expressions like this book to make us stop and think. Above everything, this is what the author and her story wants us to do and it is the most powerful thing a book can achieve. In a way it reminds me a lot of Elenor Olpihant, in the sense that you aren’t quite sure what’s going to happen, you can’t see the happy ending, you can’t see the resolution but both books show us that it isn’t really about the fairytale ending. Life is a work in progress. We are a work in progress. And that’s okay. 

It’s a wonderfully realistic modern novel, which I loved. Eating instant noodles and watching Netflix, been there, done that. I think Rooney also nails the ebb and flow of activity in a young person’s life. There are the days you don't even bother to put a bra and there are days you end up staying awake until dawn having consumed several bottles of wine. It wasn’t only reminiscent of my Uni days but also life now. Especially life in a big city like London. Some weekends you truly come out the other side not knowing what happened and other times it’s a binge on the box sets. I think we can all relate to that, regardless of age. 

I could go on and on about this novel but I don’t think it is necessary. It’s a truly wonderful work of modern literature that hammers home why any artistic expression, be it novels, art, films etc is good for us, because it makes us think. And it also does that bloody amazing thing of debilitating the word ‘normal’. Without getting too deep, we do all worry that we aren’t normal and it can be crippling. This book is about starting conversations and questioning what is normal is a pretty good place to begin.  

In conclusion for those who want to go away and read the book - it’s worth it. You won’t necessarily fall in love with the characters or relate entirely to them but I don’t believe you are meant to. There’s more to it than that. It’s a tale after reaction and discussion. I would recommend this one for Book Club as it will get such a mixed bag of response that could evoke some truly fascinating conversations. Happy Reading and let me know thoughts in the comments below. Onto the next!