Review of ‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney

If I had conversations with friends about this book, I’d tell them this: I don’t understand the hype. I was expecting a good read but I was almost falling asleep over it. I bought it from Waterstones. They had a couple of tables at the front devoted to the Irish author Sally Rooney, so I thought she must be worth reading. She’s still in her twenties and has published two successful novels, which is a fantastic achievement, but it seems that her writing style is not for me. I have a library reservation on Normal People so there’ll be a second chance for me to like her.

The book follows the experiences of 21-year-old Frances, who’s studying in Dublin. She does spoken word performances with her best friend and former girlfriend Bobbi. The two of them become involved in the lives of a wealthy couple, photographer Melissa and her husband Nick, an actor. I would say the story is mainly about Frances’ affair with Nick, but it’s also about her obsession with Bobbi, her strained relationship with her separated parents, and lots of other things which are beneath the surface if I cared to think about it. This novel isn’t plot-driven, so it relies on our interest in the characters and the narrative style. Unfortunately I didn’t warm to these, which made reading the novel difficult.

My main problem with the book was the overdone realism. Every gesture is noted, the dialogue is tedious and without speech marks, characters and events are introduced but don’t contribute anything to the plot. It also seemed like an autobiographical novel, which I know that debuts often are. There was no sense of place at all. I need descriptions of places to help bring the story to life. I even forgot that the setting was Ireland until euros were mentioned. I’m puzzled as to why the critics adore the book. I’ve just looked at some reviews on Amazon (which, by the way, I rarely do when writing my own reviews) and only 39% of reviewers gave a 5 star rating. The next most popular rating was 1 star, so I’m clearly not the only reader who was underwhelmed and bored.

29 thoughts on “Review of ‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney”

        1. LOL, somehow I thought every book you praised, I didn’t like, or something. Maybe I was thinking of a different blogger, oh well 😀
          PS. I am going to read Transcription next.

          1. I love it when book opinions differ though! It’s not a bad thing. ?. I enjoyed Transcription but I wouldn’t rave about it. Let’s see what you think ?

  1. I DNFed this book, and couldn’t write a better review than this. I certainly don’t get the hype too. Apparently Normal People is also along the same lines, but I hope you have better chance with it. Great one! x

    1. Thanks for your comment Umut. I was tempted to DNF the book but I’d bought it for £8 so I felt compelled to finish. Probably if it had been a library book, I’d drop it. Normal People is everywhere so I’m going to have a go. 🙂

    1. I have a feeling I won’t like Normal People either but I want to try it, mainly because it’s got so much attention. Seems that the critics have latched on to the author for various reasons – I wish more young authors could be given the same chances. Thanks for your comment!

  2. I have seen Sally Rooney’s name a lot, too. Normal People is getting a lot of hype, although this one sounds like it had too many flaws. Hope your next read is a better one!

    1. I’ll try not to let my experience affect my reading of Normal People. I’m not having much luck with the hyped books am I?! Thanks for your comment!

    1. Thanks! Maybe the critics who are a lot cleverer than me recognised it as a work of genius. Or perhaps it got extra attention because the main character is bi. All I know is that it was not an exciting read.

  3. There seems to be such a lot of hype around Sally Rooney but all I’ve seen is people saying that they don’t like her writing style! I wanted to read Normal People but I think I’ll wait for a library copy to become available ?

  4. Oh no, I’ve just got hold of this book. Sounds as though I may need to switch from tea to coffee to get through it. Thanks for the advance warning!

  5. Ooo you really did not enjoy it as much as me! Though I must admit hasn’t been my favourite read and I am also confused about the hype around her, I think I put in my review I would read Normal People but unless its in a charity shop or really cheap I don’t think I will pick it up.

    1. At least you liked it, if not loved it 😉
      That disproves my theory that Sally Rooney is like Marmite.
      I’m going to try Normal People anyway…

      1. Well good luck, hopefully it is more enjoyable for you than ‘Conversations’ If I don’t like a book by an author I find it really hard to pick up another book by them so that’s very commendable of you ?

  6. I literally rofl after reading your intro hahahaha love it! See I somehow trusted my book intuition on this. It just told me no no no don’t fall do it the hype and I’m glad I listened! Thank you do it tho is awesome, honest review!

    1. Thanks, Jee, I try my best 😉
      Well done for trusting your book sense. By the way, I’m reading The Library Book because of your review – it’s an excellent book!

        1. Thanks! – will be reviewed in the next few weeks. Best book recommended by a blogger so far 😉

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