I’m going to start with a quote from a Vox article about Sally Rooney, because I think it captures pretty well my read and sometimes let professionals do their jobs:
The result is that it is now aspirational to be the kind of person who has read Sally Rooney. She is a signifier of a certain kind of literary chic: If you read Sally Rooney, the thinking seems to go, you’re smart, but you’re also fun — and you’re also cool enough to be suspicious of both “smart” and “fun” as general concepts.Constance Grady, Vox, “The Cult of Sally Rooney” -https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/9/3/20807728/sally-rooney-normal-people-conversations-with-friends
It doesn’t have to be aspirational. Conversations with Friends is short, totally absorbing and delightful. And the whole time you’ll find yourself asking ‘is this how novels normally sound?’ ‘am I high or is this how narrative reads’ etc Sometimes you may be high. And that’s fine! It reads even better this way. Not that I know.
So in this one it’s a love quadrangle focused on Francis and Nick having an affair, but Francis really loves Bobbi, but Bobbi has a thing for Melissa, Nick’s wife, who he also loves. It’s pretty simple to keep track of in the book because they’re usually in the same room/house and almost always talking explicitly and plainly about what they are thinking or feeling about themselves and the others.
[It’s so refreshing for a character to just be like: this is what I’m thinking! Forget ‘show don’t tell’! Just tell us! It’s a joy!]
And there’s such great stuff on age/coming of age, maternity/parenting and the distance between ideals about not needing money and actually… needing money.
And oh my god the sex scenes are very well written. (sorry, mum!)
In sum: even if you don’t want to be fancy pretentious reader you can read this one because it is just great. And if you do have aspirations for what to talk about at a cocktail party, because those are happening again, read on! (Even though it was written ages ago. Whatever! Some of us arrive late).