But I recognized that the only thing he had done to hurt me was to withdraw his affection, which he had every right to do.Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends
Conversations with Friends is the story of two girls, Frances and Bobbi who become involved with this married couple. The married couple, Nick and Melissa, have a strained relationship, mostly brought on by the several extramarital affairs that Melissa has. Nick, a half-known actor, takes an interest in Frances and her writing and they start an email affair. After this email affair is brought into the real world, Frances has to come to terms with what she wants out of the affair and how this may impact her world review and relationships with those around her. Conversations with Friends is a love story with a morally gray center and serves to bring insight into the world of modern love.
I have many thoughts about this story. Most of these thoughts stem from the fact that I don’t quite understand how I actually feel about this book. So, this review will be me attempting to discern how I feel about this unconventional love story. I want to start with the narrator. It’s hard to call her the main character because there are four main characters but the story is told through Frances’s perspective. I find this interesting because the reader only really sees her relationships with Bobbi, Nick and Melissa and is told the dynamics between Bobbi, Nick and Melissa individually. The audience never really gets to see what tensions between the other main characters look like and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but rather it serves to focus the narrative on one concrete story. The reader isn’t plagued with questions about the relationships of the other three characters because the reader can’t necessarily see into their minds. Something that Rooney does particularly well is to use even the most minute sentences to further the story. Something that she mentions in passing does turn out to be something extremely vital to understanding the characters.
I find that this story is more character driven than plot driven. I don’t feel as though there needed to be a plot to be engaging. I was more interested in the day-to-day doings of the characters and I think that’s one of Rooney’s strong suits as well. She doesn’t make you care about the plot, she makes you care about the people. In her novel, Normal People, I felt that what actually happened in the story was very mundane, but it’s actually supposed to be. These stories are about real people and there is nothing so far-fetched in this story that I felt like I couldn’t believe it would happen. The characters are drawn to each other in a way that furthers the plot. The plot wouldn’t be able to move forward without the character interactions.
Moving on to talk about the prose. Rooney’s style is very simple, even when she talks about things such as current events or politics. She can discuss the most pretentious sounding subjects and make the average person understand them. I can appreciate that about her. She writes about highly educated people and it would be easy to make her prose match the seemingly pretentious nature of her characters’ discussions. However, she realizes that her stories aren’t written for the high society critiques. She focuses more on studying her characters rather than making her prose seamless. I tend to view prose as important only when the story doesn’t really move the way that Rooney’s stories do. In this novel, I was mostly impressed with the fact that my focus wasn’t really on her writing. This story made me feel something. That’s the most important part of a story. If you feel the need to nitpick the story’s technical details, it means that the story itself isn’t making you feel anything. Or at least, that’s been my experience.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It’s the story of more than just two people falling in love. It’s a story about the network of people that you get to know through meeting different people. The story also brings light to the concept of shared history, bringing Bobbi and Frances’s history to the forefront even when discussing the girls’ relationships with Nick and Melissa. I recommend this story for anyone who just needs something to make them think about the relationships in their life. It’s a very introspective novel and I think anyone can gain a new perspective on their relationships from reading this novel.