There are synopsis or reviews that make you want to immediately run out and buy the book mentioned in these reviews. Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney’s debut novel was such a book. Perhaps it was the title that first attracted me and I read that its author, Sally Rooney has been hailed as one of the rising stars by the publishing industry.
Conversations with Friends is a story that makes me marvel at the wonder of being young, clueless and experimental. I like to think that I have no regrets as I know that given another chance, I would probably arrive at the same place where I am. Perhaps I have no regrets because it is pointless regretting anything when you cannot change a thing that is in the past. Sometimes I do envy the young although I must not.
Conversations with Friends reminds me of the time when it was easy to fall in love. Affairs of the heart is an indulgence just like chocolates as they make you feel dizzy and happy. When one is young and unassuming, falling in love is easy. It is all so emotionally exhausting and yet riveting. It could be only a crush or an infatuation or about being in love with the concept of loving. It is the chemistry of love, the anticipation that gives the adrenalin rush. Falling in love must be triggered by some chemical response or some biological reasons when some unseen forces draw two people together. There is a famous quote by the brilliant Albert Einstein :
Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.
Gravity is not the reason two people are attracted to each other. In my youth, there were times when I concluded that I was only in love with the concept of love but not the person. Gravity is physics, falling in love is to do with the biological and chemical response.
In Conversations with Friends, Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa are four character who ask each other endless questions about sex , friendship , art and literature. Frances and Bobbi are in their early twenties while Melissa and Nick are in their thirties. These characters are rather wealthy people, they are what we would classify as bourgeois and their dialogues involve all those philosophical talks about love and marriage. The dialogues are clever and the way they are written makes it easy to get into the rhythm of reading the novel.
Frances is doing internship three days a week in a literary agency and her job is to read stacks of manuscripts and write one-page reports on their literary value.
Here are a couple of snippets in twenty-one year old Frances’ voice :
‘ I hadn’t been kidding with Philip about not wanting a job. I didn’t want one. I had no plans as to my future financial sustainability : I never wanted to earn money for doing anything. I’d had various minimum wage jobs in previous summers- sending emails, making cold calls, things like that – and I expected to have more of htem after I graduated. Though I knew that I would eventually have to enter full- time employment , I certainly never fantasised about a radiant future where I was paid to perform an economic role. Sometimes this felt like a failure to take an interest in my own life, which depressed me. On the other hand, I felt that my disinterest in wealth was ideologically healthy. I’d checked what the average yearly income would be if the gross world product were divided evenly among everyone, and according to Wikipedia it would be $ 16 ,100. I saw no reason, political or financial, ever to make more money than that.’
‘My ego had always been an issue. I knew that intellectual attainment was morally neutral at best, but when bad things happened to me I made myself feel better by thinking about how smart I was.When I couldn’t make friends as a child, I fantasised that I was smarter than all my teachers, smarter than any other student who had been the school before a genius hidden among normal people. It made me feel like a spy….”
Frances is a child of divorce with an alcoholic father. She and Nick find themselves drawn to each other despite the age difference and they end up having an affair. Frances seems so young and naïve and we as readers will not judge her. Bobby is Frances’s classmate and first love. Frances is in awe of her for she is fiercely independent and free spirited.
I like how the author ends the novel.