Frances and Bobbi are one-time lovers, now firmly best friends. They go to college together, perform poetry together, debate the function of romance under capitalism together. (As one does.) At a poetry reading one evening, they meet a well-known journalist named Melissa, and a sort of convoluted love quadrilateral takes shape with the three and Melissa’s husband.

Writing characters as self-aware as Sally Rooney’s requires serious smarts, and her debut novel, “Conversations with Friends,” sparkles in its elegance, perceptiveness, and humor. The book is filled with Frances and Bobbi’s exchanges on everything from the timely (marital politics, mental health, and so on) to the timeless (intimacy, insecurity, you get the idea). That all sounds potentially insufferable, but Rooney makes both protagonists so deeply likable that curling up with her novel feels—ah ha!—like a good, long conversation with friends.

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