Excitement for Sally Rooney’s debut novel spread like wildfire through Potts Point Bookshop when one of my colleagues began raving about it, calling Conversations With Friends the book for millennial women of 2017.
Honestly, it’s this close to being the book of 2017, period.
A clever, poignant, and true-to-life tale, this story about the entangled affairs of an intelligent but aloof 21-year-old woman from Dublin made me laugh and cry in equal measure. I was so enraptured in the complex relationships between Frances, Bobbi, Melissa and Nick, I read the book in a couple of sittings, and days later, I miss being in the head of Frances.
Frances, a creative-type, performs spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, and have achieved a modicum of success. When acclaimed writer and photographer Melissa approaches the pair to do a profile on them, they accept. It turns out to be a defining moment of their young lives. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her actor husband, Nick; handsome and mysterious, more than a decade older, and seemingly out of hear league. Or maybe not, because as it turns out, Nick shares her affection, and the two begin a passionate affair, complicated not only by his martial status, but stunted affection on his part, and Frances’s own self-doubt. And in the midst of this emotional turmoil — augmented by neglectful parents — Frances is forced to confront a debilitating medical problem.
Conversations With Friends is a moving, emotional masterpiece, coherently detailing the life mood and voice of a contemporary woman. This is no comforting, chocolate-box, Sunday-night TV movie; Rooney’s novel is raw and heart-breaking, punctuated with moments of great triumph and happiness. It is at once light, joyful and emotionally devastating, with a deeply affecting protagonist. A true must read, and one of the best books of the year.