Conversations with friends bcover

‘Powerful, graceful and honest’

Sally Rooney’s “Conversations with Friends” is published in the U.S. this week.


Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott

“J.D. Salinger’s novella ‘Franny and Zooey’ describes itself as a ‘compound, or multiple, love story’ – that’s probably what I was trying to accomplish here, too.”

So Sally Rooney has said when referring both to a particular favorite of hers (see below) and to her own novel “Conversations with Friends,’ which has been described by one reviewer as an “astonishingly assured debut.”

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It’s the story of two 21-year-old women, Frances and Bobbi, and their new friends, a comfortably-off professional couple in their 30s, Melissa and her husband Nick.

One newspaper reviewer described “Conversation with Friends,” which is set in Dublin, with forays into Mayo and France, as “[e]lectrically contemporary,” and a “tireless, probing and, above all, highly intelligent novel.”

The “heated, multi-house auction” at the London Book Fair for the rights to the novel was entirely justified, if the enthusiastic reception it’s received is any measure.

“A contemporary love story so powerful, graceful and honest it left me reeling,” said one admiring fellow writer.

“Reading ‘Conversations with Friends,’” said another, “I felt I’d found a fresh lake in a clearing – and the water was so pure it allowed me to see right down to the bottom. Sally Rooney displays the complexities of human relationships, and does it with such refined elegance that you really won’t want to avert your gaze.”

Sally Rooney

Date of birth: Feb. 20, 1991

Place of birth: Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Residence: Dublin

Published works: “Conversations with Friends.”

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

When I’m immersed in writing, I don’t want to do anything else. I can happily work from the time I get up in the morning until pretty late at night. Ideally I do like to work on my own in a quiet room, but as I didn’t have the opportunity to write full-time when I was working on this novel, much of it was written in less than ideal conditions.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I don’t know that I’m in a position to offer advice, but I think it’s always a good idea for a writer to read widely. Personally I also find it helpful to work on my listening skills. For a writer being a good listener is more important than being a good talker, I think.

Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.

It’s hard to choose only three. I always say J.D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey,” which I return to often and which has never failed me yet. Ben Lerner’s novel“10:04” likewise sent me into agonies of delight when I first read it in 2015. Just the other week I finished George Eliot’s masterful final novel “Daniel Deronda” and had to set aside time afterward to re-read all the passages I’d underlined. A truly beautiful book.

What book are you currently reading?

I’m reading Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” in an attempt to fill in some of the most glaring omissions in my reading history.

Is there a book you wish you had written?

No, I don’t think so. I often read sentences I wish I’d written, but an entire book? It would be like wishing for a new personality. Maybe I would be better off with a different one, but it’s hard to imagine anything other than the one I have.

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

I find everyone I meet interesting in one way or another. With the greatest of respect to all the authors I have met, I don’t find them any more interesting than any other type of person. As an author myself, I can attest I’m not especially interesting.

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

I’m particularly fond of Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, under heavy cloud cover, and maybe a light drizzle of rain.

You're Irish if…

I tend to be open-minded on issues of identity. As James Connolly wrote in 1900: “Ireland as distinct from her people, is nothing to me: and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for Ireland, and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation brought upon the people of Ireland – aye, brought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women, without burning to end it, is in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call Ireland.”