Conversations with Friends

Hogarth: Crown. Jul. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780451499059. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780451499073. F
OrangeReviewStarDEBUT Best friends who were formerly a couple, Frances and Bobbi attend university and perform spoken-word pieces in Dublin. Melissa chronicles the urban Irish arts scene as an established photojournalist and wants to cover these talented young women and their work. As Melissa's social circle closes around the younger women, Frances initiates an affair with Melissa's sickly husband, Nick. This relationship, as well as Frances's burgeoning literary reputation, attenuates the bonds among everyone involved. Ultimately, Frances's art drives Bobbi away, even as Nick's improving health and intimacy with his wife push Frances to the brink of mental and physical disaster. By book's end, everyone has achieved a precarious equilibrium, though readers are left to wonder if it can last. Narrated by Frances, Rooney's satisfying first novel artfully traces the emotional intricacies that draw people together as well as the social vicissitudes that complicate these connections. Frances is a tricky narrator, brilliant and analytical yet somehow unknowable to herself and others.
VERDICT Readers who enjoyed Belinda McKeon's Tender and Caitriona Lally's Eggshells will enjoy this exceptional debut. [See Prepub Alert, 2/13/17.]

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