Review: Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

9780571334247Excitement 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 heartbreaking, 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.

ISBN: 9780571334247
Format: Paperback (216mm x 135mm x 23mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publish Date: 25-May-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

9781784298852Louise O’Neill’s raw and powerful Almost Love follows a young woman named Sarah who falls in love fast — and hard — for a man twenty years her senior, and starts sacrificing her career, friendships, and relationships to be with him.

We have all been there, or witnessed it: a relationship destined for failure from the very start. The writing is on the wall; sometimes we’re the friend who knows this, but can’t — for the sake of the friendship — reveal our concern — and most of us have been the protagonist, invested in a romantic relationship going nowhere, certainly not the direction we want it to, but hopeful — so damn hopeful! — that our inner fears won’t be realised, that our gut instinct is wrong. We know from the very start that Sarah’s relationship with Matthew is fated to end badly, but we know what it’s like, to be in love, to think we’ve found the person who gets us, who appreciates us; or been so blinded by our own desires, our fantasy of What Could Be, that we overlook our partner’s failings. Hope overrides reality; the belief that we can change things, set a new path. Sarah is all of us, and bearing witness to her razing of everything meaningful in her life, and the erosion of her confidence, is truly agonising. There is humour throughout, certainly; but it’s the gallows kind, that only exacerbates the splintering of our hearts as Sarah’s journey unfolds.

Wry and devastating in equal measure, Almost Love is a delectable and heartbreaking tale about an all-consuming relationship gone wrong, and demonstrates how treacherous, agonising and addictive love can be; how love can be an exercise in self-sabotage, and falling for the wrong person is often akin to hitting the self-destruct button. O’Neill navigates the jagged edges of love so astutely. I loved it.

ISBN: 9781784298852
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 304
Imprint: riverrun
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Publish Date: 8-Mar-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

9780141356112 (1)Becky Albertalli follows up her brilliant debut Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda with a fresh and poignant adolescent love story starring eternally lovelorn seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso. Set against the backdrop of the legalisation of gay marriage in America and the planning of her mothers’subsequent nuptials, The Upside of Unrequited is a heartfelt and bittersweet reminder of the pain and exhilaration of first love.

The Upside of Unrequited works because of its characters. There is never any doubt as to the story’s endpoint; this is a universal tale of burgeoning romance, of choosing the right guy over the obvious one, and overcoming your insecurities and being comfortable with who you are. What makes it stand out is its diverse cast, and the deftness with which this diversity is handled.  Albertalli doesn’t overemphasize her characters’ sexual orientation, ethnicity, mental health or size; they’re just elements vividly melded into her story. Every character is well-drawn and relatable.

Molly’s teen angst might prove grating for some readers — it’s tuned to the nth degree, intentionally so — but thankfully before it gets too much she finds a dose of confidence, and the plot shifts into a different gear, and instead of focusing on a possible romance, it becomes about managing newfound romance.

The Upside of Unrequited is a searingly honest book about the power and beauty of first love; and the turmoil involved in discovering it, and accepting it. It deals with some heavy themes and big issues, but never at the expense of its characters. Becky Albertalli’s second novel is another winner.

ISBN: 9780141356112
Format: Paperback (198mm x 129mm x mm)
Pages: 368
Imprint: Penguin Books Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 11-Apr-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom