Sally Rooney: Conversations with friends

An English book deserves an English blog post. So here comes my first post that is not in German. „Conversations with friends“ is a book that went under my skin. The contrast between the unagitated language and the highly emotional story makes it a must-read in my eyes. Here’s why.

What’s it about? About a girl in her Twenties

Frances is twenty-one and lives in Dublin, in a shared appartement and on low budget. She studies literature and is lonely quite often. Her ex, Bobbi, is her best friend since they broke up. And she is also her only friend, until the two girls meet Melissa, a journalist that is about ten years older. Melissa lives in a nice house with her good-looking husband, an actor. The uneven quartet start to become friends.

At least this is what it seems. The observant Frances describes very precisely what she feels. She feels obliged to like Melissa, but feels left out when Bobbi and Melissa laugh together. Her heart beats when Melissa’s husband Nick is looking at her. She’s looking at him quite a lot also… until they kiss.

Ménage a quatre

I am not going to reveal the whole story, but it is not too much to tell that Nick is going to cheat on his wife with Frances. The younger girl, though cold on the surface, experiences great ups and downs. Altough she pretends to herself and to the reader not to be emotionally involved, you can see easily how affected she is by the trials and tribulations of forbidden love: She hurts herself from time to time and shows self-destructive behaviour by not eating and not taking care of herself when she is ill. Frances seems so strong and is yet so weak. She longs for a home, for comfort and for love – but she would never tell.

Contrast between language and content

As I said in the intro: The way the plot is told is in hard contrast to the content. I liked this aspect a lot. The first-person narrator Frances, that is Sally Rooney, uses a clear, unpretentious language. Frances thinks of herself as unemotional. But I think she is not. She just has not learned (yet?) to stand in for her feelings. She does not demand because she thinks she does not deserve.

The title tells it all: It says „conversations with friends“, which sounds like an evening with nice people, wine and good mood. But the book’s about affairs, trust, sex without love, relationships without sex, life as a poor, incurable illness and gay love. This is the dichotomy that makes this book special.

Choose this book if you:

  • like subtle and sensitive people (maybe you are one yourself?).
  • can read slowly. Every sentence deserves to be read here.
  • think your emotional life is complicated. Maybe you’ll feel better afterwards.

I have read the following book:
Rooney, Sally: Conversations with friends, published by Faber & Faber Ltd., London, 2017.

Bought in a bookstore. I chose the English one as it was cheaper than the German translation.

Picture: (c) Susanne – taken in Certaldo, Tuscany, Italy, 2019


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