Beyond the Canvas: Making the Music
Discussion questions for ‘Conversations with Friends’
Our September pick for the PBS NewsHour-New York Times book club is Sally Rooney’s “Conversations with Friends.” Become a member of the Now Read This book club by joining our Facebook group, or by signing up to our newsletter. Learn more about the book club here.
Below are questions to help guide your discussions as you read the book over the next month. You can also submit your own questions for Sally Rooney on our Google form here. Rooney will answer reader questions on the NewsHour broadcast at the end of the month.
WARNING: Spoiler alert on questions further down.
- What do you make of the dry, observant voice of the book’s narrator, Frances? Is she actually that coolheaded?
- Do you recognize anything in the relationship of Bobbi and Frances in your own friendships?
- Frances and Bobbi talk of dismantling the patriarchy and capitalism. Why do you think Rooney laces the novel with these revolutionary ideas? Do you relate to them?
- Why do you think Frances falls for Nick, even though everything about him goes against her carefully crafted ideals?
- As the book’s title implies, the characters have conversations — lots of them, across different communication platforms. How is this a very modern book, and how does it follow the contours of a classic love story?
- How is the novel about belonging, as well as growing up? Why is it so hard for Frances to feel like she belongs?
- Is Frances’ affair with Nick a poor decision of youth, or something else?
- Do you find yourself liking or hating Melissa? Which character do you identify with the most, and why?
- Rooney has been called the “first great millennial author.” Do you think she’s earned that moniker? Why?
- Rooney told the New York Times she writes for people who share her views and have a “similarly jaundiced view of social systems.” Do you share any of her critiques of society?
- How did reading the book make you feel, especially the voice Rooney employes? Did you feel anxiety, recognition, distaste, illumination, something else?
- What role do the parents of Bobbi and Frances, and their fraught relationships, play in the book?
- What do you make of Frances’ endometriosis, and Nick’s pneumonia?
- Bobbi says in part two of the book that ever since Frances has been with Nick, she feels like she’s watching her friend “disappear.” Why?