Book Review: “Conversations with Friends” By Sally Rooney

It’s easy to compare author Sally Rooney’s 2017 novel “Conversations with Friends” to Rooney’s best-selling “Ordinary People.” Most of his fanbase joined after reading the finale with high expectations (myself included). “Conversation With Friends” did not disappoint. It debuted with a series of the same name in May 2022 on Hulu with Alison Oliver and Joe Alwyn.

The main location is Dublin, Ireland in the early 2010s. The story revolves around Frances, a 21-year-old college student with an affinity for writing. He and his ex-girlfriend turned best friend Bobbi do poetry together on the weekends. His world changes forever when he meets famous photographer Melissa and her husband Nick. Frances is fascinated by Nick and his life with Melissa and after spending more time with them, she starts to develop feelings for Nick that she doesn’t know what to do.

Frances is a complex character beautifully written. Since the book is written in the first person point of view, readers can see inside his head and understand the motivations behind his actions. He goes into depth on his views and relationship with Bobbi and Nick. He is blunt and critical as well and can be hard on himself.

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As a reader, you are rooting for him and only wish him the best but he is often self-conscious about his situation with school and his relationships. His desire to write is still there but he faces the gift of the writer on many different things in the book as he goes through personal problems.

He has problems with his father and his health. His father had lived far away since he was young and separated from him many times. Throughout the novel, Frances tries to reconcile with her father and struggles with the fact that it’s harder to bond with him than it seems.

About halfway through the novel, Frances suffers from a reproductive health problem that affects her life again. He has to deal with the physical pain and also with the implications of this disease in the future. He fears that he will be seen as a “sick person” meaning that he will be treated differently from his peers. As a result, he avoids telling people about his health.

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Although this book is called “Discussion with Friends” there are many themes of love. Can one person love many people at the same time? Frances struggles with her love for Bobbi and Nick at the same time. All three handle love in different ways and do it in their own way. Bobbi doesn’t believe in relationships and yet finds herself still drawn to Frances. Frances, in the middle, seems to be hyper-aware of both of them at the same time. He never fully walks away from Bobbi despite being invested in her relationship with Nick (while simultaneously married to Melissa.)

While this book has many romantic themes and dialogues I would not describe it as romantic. Her relationship with Nick is not only questionable but ugly. Apart from dating, Nick is too old and Frances loses sight of herself trying to make the relationship work.

The main thing that bothered me about this book was the ending. Frances chooses something that goes against the grain of her personality. So again. Rooney is known for not settling because that’s what life is all about.

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I previously wrote a review of Rooney’s “Ordinary People” for Montclarion. What I said is still waiting for the flavors of this book. The writing style is refreshing, the character work is great and authentic too. The plot was well paced and kept me engaged during this time.

Like Rooney’s other books, no quotation marks are included in the discussion of this book. Some readers feel like this makes it more difficult to read but I disagree. I find it easy to catch and follow.

I would recommend this book to college students as well as people who feel lost. This book has many interesting moments and memorable dialogues between the characters. But it can also be serious and deals more with Frances’s concerns. He is a character who is lost and wants to find his way through time, a feeling that most college students can relate to.


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