Conversations with Friends (Rooney) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Conversation with Friends … then take off on your own:

1. How would you describe the two protagonists at the heart of Conversations With Friends — Francis, the narrator, and Bobbi, her best friend. Start, say, with this observation from Francis:

[Bobbi] could be abrasive and unrestrained in a way that made people uncomfortable, while I tended to be encouragingly polite. Mothers always liked me a lot, for example.

2. How has her past shaped Frances, especially, say, her father's angry bouts of drinking? What has she carried with her from childhood?

3. What was Francis and Bobbi's relationship early on … and how has it evolved? Who has the power in the relationship and in what way? Does the power equation change?

4. What does Francis mean when she declares herself anti-love?

5. Bobbi told Francis that she thought Francis lacked a "real personality," but that she meant it as a compliment. what do you think Bobbi meant by that?

6. In what way would you describe the banter between the two as competitive, almost like playing badminton or tennis?

7. What do the conversations between Frances and Bobbi do — do they provide enlightenment ...  entertainment ... or emotional connection? In other words, what purpose, if any, do the conversations serve?

   Consider, for instance, the exchange between the two young women over love —  variously defined as an "interpersonal phenomenon," a "social value system," or a "discursive practice" whose effect is "unpaid labor." During the course of the novel, how are those definitions turned on their heads? (Or are they?) How would do you define love?

8. Capitalism and its failure with the 2008 financial collapse is at the root of the two women's concerns. How do they view capitalism? How has the system failed them, their generation, and/or their country?

9. Why is Melissa drawn to the Bobbi and Francis, and what makes Melissa so appealing to them?

10. How would you describe the marriage between Melissa and Nick? Is Nick the intellectual equal of his wife?

11. When Frances enters upon an affair with Nick, how does she feel about her role as an adulteress? Does she see it as a cliche? She tells Nick that she's only doing it "ironically." What does she mean? Would you say that Frances is deluding herself … in possession of self-knowledge … or vacillating between the two?

12. Bobbi comes from wealth. How do you view her scorn for money?

13. When her husband and Frances's affair comes to light, what do you think of Melissa's willingness to share Nick with Frances? Is she self-deluded? Or clear-eyed? Do Nick's feelings for either woman invalidate his feelings for the other? Can love be shared?

14. How is the friendship between Frances and Bobbi affected by the affair between Frances and Nick?

15. This novel might be seen as a coming-of-age story. What does it have to say about innocence and growing up? How are the characters, especially Frances, changed over the course of the novel?

16. What do you think the title means? Is it ironic? Are the young women friends? Do they hold conversations?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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