Sally Rooney’s ”Conversations with Friends” – book review

People who were born in 1991 have no business writing decent novels. They should have one hideous unpublished old draft stashed in a drawer and be mentally unable to get themselves to work on their next one. That would make me, born in 1992, much more at ease. But I heard so much good about Sally Rooney that I had to acknowledge the glory of her early success.

I enjoyed reading this book, perhaps despite my initial grudge against it. It read very quickly and it was very skilfully-written. The dialogue feels incredibly realistic and the style is beautiful. One is aesthetically obliged to like this sort of thing.

There is one caveat, however, before I recommend this book to you. There is a certain type of book called “a very 1960s novel”.

Now this novel, written in the 2010s seems to fit that description perfectly. It’s a story of a lesbian/ bisexual couple (Frances and Bobbi) encountering a middle-class marriage (Nick and Melissa). Polyamory must of course ensue. Occasionally people express vague concerns about the working classes, oppression and people of colour without actually engaging with those concerns in any practical way. Some of the characters pride themselves on being Communist/Marxist.

The heroine, Frances, is very self-centred and seems to be pretty much based on the author (who also studied English at Trinity College, Dublin and had her short stories published at literary magazines very early on). She dwells on the subject of her own intelligence for quite some time, and she seems to have harbour no self-doubt about it. Lucky her.

Anyway, this is all besides the point, I suppose. This book is well-executed and for her next book, Sally Rooney has already been longlisted for the Booker Prize. So if you want to keep on track with the young and upcoming trendsetters, you should probably read this.

But why is young and upcoming still stuck in the 1960s? And isn’t this the problem of the entire British Labour party right now- that our idea of young leadership is someone who looks as if he stepped out of a time machine? We really do need to come up with some new ideas, rather urgently.

Also, here’s a far more vital concern about Conversations with Friends. Nick and Melissa are owners of a spaniel. There are not enough descriptions of said spaniel. And surely, if the married couple are sleeping in two separate beds, the spaniel would be sharing beds with one of them? Also when there is nighttime adultery being committed in France wouldn’t the spaniel (who, I noticed, is present in France) wake up, bark at the suspicious nighttime movements and give the game away? These are all very important spaniel-related questions. I need answers.

Anyhow, this is a good holiday read, if you don’t get too annoyed by the 1960s vibes.

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