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Conversations with Friends
Cover of Conversations with Friends
Conversations with Friends
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
A sharply intelligent novel about friendship, lust, jealousy, and the unexpected complications of adulthood in the 21st century
Frances is a cool-headed and darkly observant young woman, vaguely pursuing a career in writing while studying in Dublin. Her best friend and comrade-in-arms is the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi. At a local poetry performance one night, Frances and Bobbi catch the eye of Melissa, a well-known photographer, and as the girls are then gradually drawn into Melissa's world, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman's sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband, Nick. However amusing and ironic Frances and Nick’s flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy, and Frances’s friendship with Bobbi begins to fracture. As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally, terribly, with Bobbi.
 
Desperate to reconcile her inner life to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances's intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment. Written with gem-like precision and marked by a sly sense of humor, Conversations with Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth, and the messy edges of female friendship.
Art © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY www.vagarights.com
A sharply intelligent novel about friendship, lust, jealousy, and the unexpected complications of adulthood in the 21st century
Frances is a cool-headed and darkly observant young woman, vaguely pursuing a career in writing while studying in Dublin. Her best friend and comrade-in-arms is the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi. At a local poetry performance one night, Frances and Bobbi catch the eye of Melissa, a well-known photographer, and as the girls are then gradually drawn into Melissa's world, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman's sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband, Nick. However amusing and ironic Frances and Nick’s flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy, and Frances’s friendship with Bobbi begins to fracture. As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally, terribly, with Bobbi.
 
Desperate to reconcile her inner life to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances's intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment. Written with gem-like precision and marked by a sly sense of humor, Conversations with Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth, and the messy edges of female friendship.
Art © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY www.vagarights.com
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover

    Chapter 1

    Bobbi and I first met Melissa at a poetry night in town, where we were performing together. Melissa took our photograph outside, with Bobbi smoking and me self-consciously holding my left wrist in my right hand, as if I was afraid the wrist was going to get away from me. Melissa used a big professional camera and kept lots of different lenses in a special camera pouch. She chatted and smoked while taking the pictures. She talked about our performance and we talked about her work, which we’d come across on the internet. Around midnight the bar closed. It was starting to rain then, and Melissa told us we were welcome to come back to her house for a drink.

    We all got into the back of a taxi together and started fixing up our seat belts. Bobbi sat in the middle, with her head turned to speak to Melissa, so I could see the back of her neck and her little spoon-like ear. Melissa gave the driver an address in Monkstown and I turned to look out the window. A voice came on the radio to say the words: eighties . . . pop. . . classics. Then a jingle played. I felt excited, ready for the challenge of visiting a stranger’s home, already preparing compliments and certain facial expressions to make myself seem charming.

    The house was a semi-detached red-brick, with a sycamore tree outside. Under the streetlight the leaves looked orange and artificial. I was a big fan of seeing the insides of other people’s houses, especially people who were slightly famous like Melissa. Right away I decided to remember everything about her home, so I could describe it to our other friends later and Bobbi could agree.

    When Melissa let us in, a little red spaniel came racing up the hall and started barking at us. The hallway was warm and the lights were on. Next to the door was a low table where someone had left a stack of change, a hairbrush and an open tube of lipstick. There was a Modigliani print hanging over the staircase, a nude woman reclining. I thought: this is a whole house. A family could live here.

    We have guests, Melissa called down the corridor.

    No one appeared so we followed her into the kitchen. I remember seeing a dark wooden bowl filled with ripe fruit, and noticing the glass conservatory. Rich people, I thought. I was always thinking about rich people then. The dog had followed us to the kitchen and was snuffling around at our feet, but Melissa didn’t mention the dog so neither did we.

    Wine? Melissa said. White or red?

    She poured huge, bowl-sized glasses and we all sat around a low table. Melissa asked us how we’d started out performing spoken word poetry together. We had both just finished our third year of university at the time, but we’d been performing together since we were in school. Exams were over by then. It was late May.

    Melissa had her camera on the table and occasionally lifted it to take a photograph, laughing self-deprecatingly about being a ‘work addict’. She lit a cigarette and tipped the ash into a kitschy-looking glass ashtray. The house didn’t smell of smoke at all and I wondered if she usually smoked in there or not.

    I made some new friends, she said.

    Her husband was in the kitchen doorway. He held up his hand to acknowledge us and the dog started yelping and whining and running around in circles.

    This is Frances, said Melissa. And this is Bobbi. They’re poets.

    He took a bottle of beer out of the fridge and opened it on the countertop.

    Come and sit with us, Melissa said.

    Yeah, I’d love to, he said, but I should try and get some sleep before this flight.

    The dog jumped up on a kitchen chair near where...

About the Author-
  • Sally Rooney was born in the west of Ireland in 1991. Her work has appeared in The New YorkerThe New York TimesGranta and The London Review of Books. Winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, she is the author of Conversations with Friends. In 2019, she was named to the inaugural Time 100 Next list.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 15, 2017
    In this searing, insightful debut, Rooney offers an unapologetic perspective on the vagaries of relationships. When Frances and Bobbi, former lovers and college students who perform Frances's poetry together, meet Melissa, a famed photographer who wants to do a story about them, the two young women's lives are transformed. Bobbi, the more outgoing and social of the two, has a crush on Melissa; Frances, ever the enigmatic intellectual, is intrigued by Nick, Melissa's glamorous actor husband. From Frances's point of view, readers experience the exhilarating and devastating emotional roller coaster of love, not only in the trajectory of her developing relationship with Nick but also in the layered, complicated relationship between her and Bobbi, as they traverse the rocky road from lovers to friends and back again and transition to the world of adulthood. Rooney lets readers glimpse the rich interior of Frances's life—capturing the tension and excitement of her attraction to Nick, how she justifies her feelings and treatment of the people around her, and how she is shaped by the separation of her understanding mother and her alcoholic father. Here, too, is a treatise on married life, the impact of infidelity, the ramifications of one's actions, and how the person one chooses to be with can impact one's individuality. Throughout, Rooney's descriptive eye lends beauty and veracity to this complex and vivid story.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Aoife McMahon invites listeners to inhabit the life and mind of a 20-something Irish poet named Frances. A college student, she involves herself in friendships and relationships that are confusingly ill-defined. McMahon's deeply pleasing Irish lilt deftly sketches the novel's secondary characters: Bobbi, Frances's former lover; and Melissa and Nick, the glamorous older couple Frances and Bobbi befriend. McMahon deftly captures Frances's self-consciousness and the tension between what she says and means. Frances seems detached from her own feelings yet, at the same time, confused and sad. McMahon's artfully restrained delivery adds depth. The unfolding story--shared intimately as though in private conversation with listeners--captivates. J.C.G. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
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A Novel
Sally Rooney
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