A Dublin-based ménage à quatre sits at the heart of this novel. They become entangled in a familiar psycho-sexual web; yet none of what happens in this quietly sensational debut novel follows a formatby Arifa Akbar / July 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber & Faber, £14.99)
Bobbi and Frances are 20-something ex-girlfriends, students and performance poets. Both are critical of capitalism, monogamy and the patriarchy. They meet Melissa and Nick, a rich married couple more than 10 years older who cook aubergine and chorizo at dinner parties.
They form the Dublin-based ménage à quatre that sits at the heart of Conversations with Friends. They become entangled in a familiar psycho-sexual web of love and deceit; yet none of what happens in the emotional life of this quietly sensational debut novel feels like it is following a format. The radical Bobbi doesn’t hit it off with Nick, an actor with a gym-buffed body. We see the flirtation between him and pale-faced Frances, and we also sense the rivalry between her and Melissa, a published writer, of the kind that Frances aspires to be.
Sally Rooney, a 26-year-old Irish writer, captures the pain and pleasure of first loves with sensitivity and intelligence. She is also brilliant with dialogue: repartee between lovers, late-night conversation on instant messenger (“I loved it… when our relationship was like a Word document which we were writing and editing together”) and quick-fire debates on love, friendship and feminism are brought to life with an easy and exact realism.
The witty dialogue gives the illusion of frothiness, where in fact, this book is filled with depth: it is about the compromises of adulthood, modern-day femininity, self-harm and the crisis of masculinity.
You could describe it as a cross between Jules et Jim and The Bell Jar. This magnificent, melancholy and—at heart—deeply romantic novel, lives up to its hype.