Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2017)

L: 6/10
M: 5/10
J: 6/10

Analysis from a lofi version of an instrumental cover of a spoken word album posthumously released under a pseudonym:

Conversations With Friends was the next book choice, beginning my next turn. I held onto this book for a couple of years, picking it up from my (non) local book store in Ann Arbor, Literati. I chose it solely based on its cover and a thoughtful blurb written by an employee, a tried and true formula that hasn’t disappointed yet. Since then, I’ve seen the book pop up on various lists and even an announcement that a television adaptation was in the works.

Sadly, this book didn’t live up to expectations. I even saw Conversations With Friends on Indie Music Savior Phoebe Bridgers’s ““10 Favorite Books”” lists, which made me really want to feel something for Sally Roony’s 2017 debut. The singer states that it made her feel that her “life experience is completely unoriginal,” which I understand could draw a deeper connection.

Conversations is told from the point of view of Frances, an Irish college student. She writes and performs poetry with former girlfriend Bobbi in clubs around town, and the story begins with them catching the attention of a photographer named Melissa. Frances and Bobbi quickly get swallowed up by Mellisa and her husband Nick’s world of financial stability; adults who love to host parties and go on vacations.

Frances begins to have an affair with Nick, while Bobbi cozies up to Melissa. There is a brief moment where I thought this would lead to something sinister, with the young couple teaming up to destroy the sacred vow of marriage, but instead, it just drags itself out, over miles of interstate littered with bad decisions and selfish acts.

There are no character arcs to behold in Conversations; Frances is the one we are supposed to latch onto, but her story goes nowhere and is easily unlikable. I like a broken and flawed character and can easily push my chips in on an antihero if it’s warranted, but once this story started to pick up steam, I wanted no part of any of it. Frances doesn’t learn any life lessons, and if anything, she’s rewarded for her bad decisions and complete narcissism and selflessness. 

The story is told in a non-parenthetical that I couldn’t find a proper word for, only describing it as absent of all parenthesis. I was an English major for a brief moment in the sun, so I should be able to better articulate what I was trying to say, but simply put, it was annoying. My mind had to take extra milliseconds here and there to understand when someone was talking and who was saying the lines. This is probably just a personal feeling, but it added to my annoyance for this book.

With all that being said, it would appear as if I only felt vile and nasty thoughts for this book, but I actually enjoyed it as a whole. I can see that Sally Rooney is a great author despite not digging the trip she created with Conversations. It’s much to do about nothing, and the fact that it was a page-turner throughout translates.

Analysis from that one candle that just won’t light:

Oh man, I wanted to love this. I have read about this and seen the hype, and I am 100% on L’s side when it comes to the cover. However, my record shows that I cannot be trusted, and my picker is flawed, and this only supports that theory.

No one in this book is truly redeemable. Here you have a bunch of assholes just living their lives to a selfish extreme and justifying it as open-mindedness. It’s exhausting. Cheating is bad. We know this. Have I justified such actions before in extreme measures? Sure. Was I wrong? Sure.

This whole book seemed to be about people and their mental anguish to become both the smartest person in every room and also the most offensive. And ya know what? At some point, I don’t give a shit, and I’m happy for you to be both. I am exhausted by people who want to prove they are better than me. They probably are, and I’m fine with that. The frustration of this book, though, is that you have arrogance and insecurity just showboating at the same time, and I wish they would have picked a side and gone with it.

In all, I would be willing to revisit this author as I didn’t mind the flow of the book, but I’m going to need a character that I can stand behind because these assholes are draining.

Analysis from meaningful words left unsaid amongst shallow dialogue:

I tend to be a bit of a wallflower when it comes to being around my friends. I can sit in rapturous delight, chiming in occasionally, listening to those around me debate, analyze, and reference any number of topics. I had a much different feeling about listening to the internal monologue and spoken conversations within this book. While there were characters that I disliked less, they all had an air of selfishness and pretension that I had a hard time stomaching. These are the types of people that I would initially be drawn to in my real life because of their talent, only to later fade away from them because of their condescension.

Early on in the reading, I shared with my group that this book was giving me a lot of anxiety. I hate cheating and the weird ways people justify it. I saw Frances as my little sister, who I wanted to shake and say, “Look at all of these red flags… RED FLAGS = BAD!” but eventually became pretty apathetic to all of the situations. It’s kind of like the Benjamin Franklin quote, “He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” These people were just an ecosystem of narcissism. 

The only real part of this book was that endometriosis sucks.

Sally Rooney