2020 failed on all fronts, but it brought at least one pleasant event - we are now about the release in Russian of two books by a young Irish woman, Sally Rooney. Normal People was one of the most anticipated novels of the year, and it was one of those rare occasions that Reality never lost out to Expectation.
On December 10, the long-awaited Conversations with Friends will go on sale - the second, in fact, the first novel by the prodigy Rooney, which has turned the 27-year-old Trinity College graduate into an important part of the world literary establishment.
Did Rooney succeed in repeating, or rather, anticipating his own success? Understanding the ReadRate review.
“Conversations with Friends” begins with the fact that two girlfriends, barely twenty-year-old students Bobby and Frances, meet the bohemian Melissa and her husband Nick. Melissa is a photographer, Nick is an actor, their names are easy to find on Google. Friendship is struck between the four people, Bobby and Frances come to visit Nick and Melissa, drink wine with them, talk about relationships and politics, meet the couple's friends. Gradually, a romance begins between Francis and Nick. And her relationship with Bobby, on the contrary, is becoming more complicated.
Despite the more or less dramatic plot, when trying to retell the novel, it turns out to be incredibly boring. Well, some people are friends and communicate, well, they chat, well, they argue about communism and capitalism. We have also read about free relationships and adultery with a young woman a hundred times, and things are much more tense. What is the trick?
The trick is the same as in "Normal People": in Rooney's prose, the plot plays a secondary, if not tertiary role. Much more important for the writer is the elaboration of the characters and what can be described with the vague word "atmosphere". Rooney's prose is so full of tiny, barely noticeable everyday details that you perceive it with your skin. She writes in a simple language, dried out of "beauty", but with this simplicity, like tweezers, she grasps the very essence of things. An incipient feeling, awkwardness of the first sex, omissions in correspondence with a new lover, difficulties in communicating with a sworn girlfriend, tension hanging in the air, inexpressibility of the most subtle, delicate feelings.
Both Conversations With Friends and Normal People can be read as a growing up story, or even a love story, if desired. But in reality it is a subtle and analytically accurate study of the psychology of young people.
Rooney is not in vain called "Salinger for Millennials", she perfectly conveys the inner world of a generation accustomed to constant self-reflection, discussing their feelings with friends and psychotherapists, easily and to the point using words and phrases like "abuse", "personal boundaries" in conversation, "Gaslighting", "mensplaining" and so on. Relationships for them are always a problem of omissions and innuendo between people, a huge difference between what we want to think, what we really think and say. And the younger you are, the more difficult it is to deal with all this jumble of meanings and sub-meanings. Perhaps that is why some feelings can be experienced vividly only about twenty - they also fall in love at thirty, but the intensity of the experiences is not the same.
At the same time, "Conversations with Friends" is perfectly readable at any age - you either recognize yourself in the main characters right now, or with pleasure (and relief) feel nostalgic about the retreating youth with its fire of emotions.
Translator: Anna Babyashkina