Top positive review
Really enjoyed it, and a stunning accomplishment!
Reviewed in the United States on December 3, 2017
I've been wanting to read more literary fiction by my peers, and my curiosity was piqued when I heard an interview with Sally Rooney while driving around in my home state of Massachusetts, and then I met her classmate later in Dublin, who gave me "Mr. Salary", which was sharp and excellent. (Almost as perfect as short stories can get. WOW.) So I felt driven to buy her novel.
I don't always have staying power with books, but I read this one from cover to cover in a few days. I didn't agree with Frances' choice in the end, and I loved the fact that I felt invested enough to care. I wanted to go with her through to "The End". The dialogue was wonderful, and I ate up the book -- not just because of the chemistry generated between the characters, but because on a mechanical level I wanted to study "how the author did what she did" -- so many scenes were pitched just right, compelling, and exquisite. The storyline stays wonderfully tight and on-point, and follows a logical sequence, with each emotional development building on the last. At about 2/3rds of the way through, the protagonist reaches an acute level of misery, and I admittedly found it a bit harder to read. It was hard on an emotional level (which is great -- no reason the author shouldn't put us through that, if it's the truth!), but my own tiniest criticism is that I think the storytelling could have dialed back on the statements of misery. The first 2/3rds is so beautifully stark that the way Frances' breakdown is told feels like a shift in diction. (But then again, weren't we all agonized and angsty in our early 20's? In that sense, Sally hit the right note, one that most of us shy/squirm away from!!)
Brilliant book, and I felt viscerally and sensually within the narrative the entire time (deeply cringing when I read Melissa's long email, as if it was directed at me... or watching Frances wearing the sports coat, looking like a "candle"... etc. etc.) I will read it / flip through it again just to study it more. Loved how it was both physical and highly cerebral, and adored the intimate and frank look at women's sexuality and health as well. Incredible accomplishment, and I am excited to see what she writes next!!