*Just a gentle note, this review may contain small spoilers*
Oh, this book. This was a big hit when it was first published and it still is. I have been meaning to get my hands on a copy for ages and a last month or so, I ordered myself a copy on Amazon. So, what’s it actually about? Here’s what the blurb says:
Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed and observant. A student in Dublin. and an aspiring writer, at night she performs spoken word with her best friend Bobbi, who used to be her girlfriend. When they are interviewed and then befriend by Melissa, a well-known journalist who is married to Nick, an actor, they enter a world of beautiful houses, races dinner parties and holidays in Brittany, beginning a complex menage-a-quatre. But when Francis and Nick get unexpectedly closer, the sharply witty and emotion-averse Frances is forced to honestly confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time.
For me, this book is a strange one. At first, it just sat in my room looking pretty. Whenever I tried to read it, I found it very hard to get into and actually enjoy the story. But, with Sally Rooney’s second novel Normal People coming out very soon, I wanted to get back into this one and finish it before that one came out. I did find the first part a bit of a hard stretch to get into; was it the different style? The thing with no speech marks? Possibly, but I got used to that but after the second part, I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading. Looking back, I don’t realise how much a good book this until I’ve finished reading the entire thing.
Sally Rooney is a gem of a writer. My copy of the book is full of bookmarked pages just because I loved a sentence here and there, or a paragraph, or a chosen word. Her use of language is exquisite. It’s as though every word has a meaning, a big importance. Here’s an example of a quote that I loved:
But the acclaim also felt like part of the performance itself, the best part, and the most pure expression of what I was trying to do, which was to make myself into this kind of person: someone worthy of praise, worthy of love.
The beating heart of this novel is human relationships and how we communicate to one another, or most parts, don’t communicate with one another. Rooney really hones in one the human conscience, as if she is opening up these relationships and characters and picking them apart, analysing them, which I think the reader has to do also, to some extent.
There are some wonderful characters in this novel. At it’s heart, Frances is a fascinating, flawed, real character to root for. She isn’t perfect, but that’s the point. None of the characters are. There are a number of themes in this novel: love, relationships, communication, conversation, family, lies, deceit, secrets, but also social class. This can be mirrored with Frances and Melissa – the opposites of each other and I think this was really well written and explored in the novel.
Like I said, Rooney is a wonderful writer and this novel is full of wonderful writing. I loved this small sentence that just made me fall in awe of her writing:
It was the first of November. Lights sparked on the river and buses ran past like boxes of light, carrying faces in the windows.
I think that sums up Rooney and her writing for me: something so simple but effective. A perfect simile that made me smile from ear to ear. And that ending! I’m going to ask something here (spoilers!): do you think he accidentally phoned Frances thinking it was Melissa or did he just actually call Frances and lied about thinking it was Melissa? I think he knew what he was doing and that he missed her… what do you think?
I think this book is a book that people are wary about. Is it just a group of millennials being idiots? Mostly, but it’s way more than that. It’s a book about the core of our everyday lives: relationships and conversation. What goes on behind the closed doors of a relationship? How do we communicate our love to each other? Or even our hate? Why don’t we communicate enough? Rooney delves into the human condition, exploring the condition of love, and wanting to be loved, to be wanted, to be something.
After finishing this novel, I think it’s a brilliant debut from a wonderful writer who understands the complexity of the modern day and relationships. I can’t wait for Normal People and the one after that, the one after that, and the one after that…
Have you read Conversation With Friends? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!