I’ll be honest, the first time I started reading Conversations with Friends, I gave up. I’m not usually one to leave a book halfway through, but I just couldn’t get into it. But then I started seeing everyone talking about Rooney and how amazing this book was. At first, I was adamant that the hype was wrong – I’d tried reading it, and it wasn’t engaging.
After weeks of telling everyone not to believe the hype, I gave into it myself. How I was wrong the first time round. I literally couldn’t put the book down. The funny thing is that, I can’t quite put my finger on why I loved it so much in the same way I didn’t know what I wasn’t to keen on on my first attempt at reading.
Perhaps it’s that the narrative just seems so realistic. Not in a ‘these things happen to everyone everyday’ kind of way, but more of a ‘this just feels like real life’ kind of way. Rooney doesn’t decorate the narrative with elaborate descriptions and reporting clauses don’t encourage you to understand dialogue in a particular kind of way. Instead, the events are just laid unapologetically bare. I think that’s what makes it realistic – it strips the narrative of a narrator.
I don’t think the reader is positioned to view Frances in any particular way and I can’t even work out if I like her. I definitely wanted things to work out for her, but I didn’t agree with how she was behaving, or necessarily believe that she deserved everything to work out. In this way, I suppose she was the perfect construction of a late teen/ early twenties woman, yet her character seemed so candid and unconstructed (I’m not sure that’s quite the right word, but you get what I mean…).
In fact, I think the only character I really liked in the narrative was Frances’ mum. She actually barely features in a physical sense, but her presence is so comforting and necessary to bring a little sense into the narrative. In hindsight, this is probably a pretty accurate representation of real life.
Reviews of Conversations with Friends have praised Rooney for her attention to the “most delicate cruelties of human interaction” and I definitely agree. Whatever the event at any time in the narrative, it’s the communication between characters that make it what it is. This communication isn’t necessarily what it should be, in terms of social expectations and conventions, but it just further illustrates the each characters’ personality and, in turn, the nature of human kind.
As I said earlier, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what I ended up loving so much about this book, and what kept me turning the pages and fast as I could. All I know is that it certainly does live up to the hype, and you should certainly read it.