Sally Rooney, Conversation with Friends, Hogarth, 2017
In the hammock is a new feature on my blog.
This is where I get to share thoughts on books I am reading now – they can be any genre, from any place and any time. I love reading most genres but I have been a novel addict since young. My doctoral thesis was all about novel writing, not poetry! For a number of years I reviewed fiction for The New Zealand Herald and the pleasure in doing so was more important than the pay cheque. I miss it.
I bumped into Dylan Horrocks at the Wellington Writers and Readers Week with a heavy bag – I confessed I was hoping to to read in the gaps so had catered for a number of possible moods that day. It makes a difference – mood reading.
Back home it’s rest and recovery time so I want comfort reading. I am thinking, if you are what you eat, you are what you read. Reading becomes a form of medication, a stepping stone to daydream and loitering in other worlds.
I got a swag of novels last year after trawling The Guardian 2017 picks from other writers. Sally Rooney’s Conversation with Friends lives up to the recommendation. She was born in west of Ireland in 1991, studied English at Trinity College in Dublin and has featured in several literary journals. She won the 2017 Sunday Star Times Young Writer of the Year.
This edgy debut novel focuses on Frances, a performance poet and English student in Dublin. She is plagued with doubt, allergic to feeling things, but papers over her vulnerable core and body issues with intellectual flair, her ironic dialogue, her flight patterns. What elevates the novel into essential reading is voice. Dialogue drives character, event, scene, desire and relationships, and the brittle relationships are what kept me reading. Unwillingly to stop!
There are relations with super articulate Bobbi, ongoing girlfriend and ex-lover; an affair with married Nick that intensifies the irony and the papered-over self; and the mother and father held at a distance.
The writing is so immensely fluid and riveting that complicated Frances, with her retreats and veils, her false steps and preservations, adheres in myriad ways. On the one hand this is a glorious portrait of youth and ideas, yet on the other hand, the navigations connect with lifelong habits of finding and losing your way though oth ideas and experience.
I love it. It is a multi-stranded contemporary love story that sets every pore tingling like a pack of much needed vitamens.