So I really meant to be focusing on The Morning News Tournament of Books short list… but I already have so many other books on my ‘to read’ list, that hasn’t totally been happening. I did just get There, There out of the library which is both highly recommended by many and a tournament book, so there’s that. And I have The Mars Room on my shelf and I really want to read it… But it’s starting to seem unlikely that I will read all or most of the books before the tournament starts (although I have finished 6 of 18).

Anyway, instead last week I read Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney. This initially went on my list in January after I read The New Yorker’s profile of Rooney and they just made her work sound amazing. Reflecting, I did like this book and I would recommend it to others, although I will say it took me a few tries to get into it. I think I picked it up three times and the first two made it through about twenty pages, and then ready pretty much the rest of the book in one sitting.

The novel tells the story of Frances, a college student in Dublin who is also a talented writer and sort of enmeshed in the literary scene in Dublin. Her former girlfriend/current best friend Bobbi is also a student in Dublin and they perform Frances’ poems together. This leads them to meet Melissa who photographs them, writes a profile of them, and becomes sort of an older friend. This isn’t exactly a coming of age story, and honestly I’m not completely sure Frances really changes much at all, but the prior drama of the novel comes from her relationship with Melissa’s husband, Nick. There’s also lots of other drama for Frances, parent drama, health scares, her relationship with Bobbi.

This book made me feel pretty old. It’s been a while since college and well, I really was never like this. Not that Frances is entirely this free-spirited character, if anything she feels very real because she’s struggling to deal with the responsibilities and stresses of becoming an adult. I didn’t exactly identify with her, but I started to really like her. Her musings which fill the book are sometimes a bit over the top, but seemed sort of correct to me in terms of portraying a twenty year old:

Was I kind to others? It was hard to nail down an answer. I worried that if I did turn out to have a personality, it would be one of the unkind ones. Did I only worry about this question because as a woman I felt required to put the needs of others before my own? Was “kindness” just another term for submission in the face of the conflict? These were the kind of things I wrote about in my diary as a teenager: as a feminist I have the right not to love anyone.

When I first finished the book, I wasn’t sure if I liked it, and even now I find the ending a bit dissatisfying. There’s a moment when things have happened and it sort of feels like the end, old relationships have fallen apart, the sadness has been dealt with, new relationships have formed. But the book doesn’t end there, it goes just a little further to leave you in a place where you suddenly feel like you’re back in the middle of a story, and you’re wondering what’s next for Frances. I know a lot of people need books that tie every single thing up in a bow. I definitely fight not to be that person because I feel like those books don’t challenge you as a reader. But if you know you’re that kind of person, you might not love this book. Otherwise, this is actually a pretty light read.

Currently reading: Kind of slogging through Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and just started The Book Thief (although There, There or The Mars Room might end up getting finished first).