Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends is November’s Book Club pick
Acclaimed debut tackles friendships, relationships and how we communicate
Sally Rooney: shortlisted for the £30,000 Sunday Times EFG short story award
Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends is November’s Irish Times Book Club selection.
Frances and Bobbi, best friends and former lovers, are students in Dublin and a spoken word double act. When they each become involved with a narried couple, journalist Melissa and her actor husband Nick, their friendship and their characters are tested.
For Frances, the narrator, desire is like “a key turning hard inside my body, turning so forcefully that I could do nothing to stop it”.
As their relationships unfold, they discuss sex and friendship, infidenlity and intimacy, art and literature, politics and gender, and, of course, one another.
Frances is brutal in her criticisms, with Rooney capturing the pitch-perfect tone of a certain type of college student whose self-righteousness is undercut with self-loathing.
“The emotional intelligence and precision of Conversations with Friends delivers a dynamic debut novel about the messy, overlapping relationships between four captivating characters,” wrote Irish Times review Sarah Gilmartin.
From the west of Ireland, Rooney has an Mphil in Literature of the Americas from Trinity College Dublin. At just 26, her work has appeared in Granta, The White Review, The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly and Winter Papers. Her story, Mr Salary, was shortlisted for the £30,000 Sunday Times EFG short story award.
Over the next four weeks, we shall explore the work through a series of features by the author herself, fellow authors Thomas Morris and Gavin Corbett, Gill Moore and an interview with Michael Nolan. Sally Rooney will be in conversation with Laura Slattery of The Irish Times on Thursday, November 16th, at 7.30pm in the Irish Writers Centre, Parrnell Square, Dublin 1. Admission is free. The podcast of the intereview will be available on November 30th.
Sally Rooney writes with a rare, thrilling confidence, in a lucid and exacting style uncluttered with the sort of steroidal imagery and strobe flashes of figurative language that so many dutifully literary novelists employ. This isn’t to say that the novel lacks beauty. Its richness blooms quietly.’
Rooney shares with Plath a knack for particularising a feminine consciousness, and this novel is the best I’ve read on what it means to be young and female right now.
The kind of novel that young women transitioning into adulthood in the early 21st century may one day call “seminal”.
“Rooney writes so well of the condition of being a young, gifted but self-destructive woman, both the mentality and physicality of it. She is alert to the invisible bars imprisoning the apparently free. Though herself young – she was born in 1991 – she has already been shortlisted for this year’s Sunday Times EFG short story award. Her hyperarticulate characters may fail to communicate their fragile selves, but Rooney does it for them in a voice distinctively her own.”
“A contemporary love story so powerful, graceful and honest it left me reeling. [Conversations with Friends] is, by turns, astonishing, heart-rending and perfect; there’s not a word out of place.”
Luke Kennard, author of The Transition
“Sally Rooney is a writer going all the way to the top. Conversations with Friends features the 21st century, Irish descendents of Salinger’s guileless wiseasses brought to life in prose as taut and coolly poised as early Bret Easton Ellis.”
Colin Barrett, author of Young Skins
“There’s not a beat out of place in Sally Rooney’s astonishingly poised writing. Conversations with Friends is the most sophisticated and perceptive novel I’ve read about relationships in the 2010s.”
Gavin Corbett, author of This Is The Way and Green Glowing Skull
“Written with such precision and perceptiveness, full of arid humour and reckless despair, a novel of spine-tingling salience.”
Sara Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither and winner of the 2015 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize