Frances is twenty-one, intelligent and a little introverted, in contrast to her best friend and ex-girlfriend, Bobbi, who can be outspoken and confrontational. Despite having had a romantic relationship in the past, the book opens with Frances and Bobbi as close friends, still enjoying each other’s company. In between studying, the two recite spoken word in performances and it is at one of these events that they become acquainted with Melissa, a writer who has already had success. Melissa has a life that Frances is envious of: a luxurious house which she cohabits with her attractive, actor husband, Nick, and a lifestyle that allows her to host dinner parties and go on fancy holidays.
While Bobbi finds herself drawn to Melissa, Frances begins to have stirrings for Nick and it’s not long before Nick and Frances engage in a secret affair. The two navigate social gatherings, trying to keep their relationship unknown while in close proximity to their friends. As the relationship develops, Frances finds herself confronting her own needs and discovering the functionality of Nick’s relationship with Melissa, and she begins to wonder if she can be happy with Nick.
Conversations with Friends is a novel that examines the emotional strain of overlapping relationships and questions whether two people can truly be together while tied to other partners. It examines friendships, sexual relationships and family in an all-encompassing, heart-rendering tale.
At several instances in the novel Frances appears to self-harm, inflicting small injuries on herself. Why do you think she does this and does she ever confront these actions and seek help?
How does the novel include LGBTQ representation without labelling it?
What was your reaction to the ending? Do you think that Frances’ decision was the right one?
Frances struggles with her diagnosis and resorts to the internet for more information. Do you think she is ultimately comforted by the information she finds out, especially the statistic that it can occur in 1 of 10 women?
How does the character of Melissa change over the course of the novel? Is she the antagonist of the novel?
What does Frances’ fixation on beauty suggest about her own insecurities? Conversations-with-Friends-Discussion-Questions.pdf
Nick decides to tell Melissa that he has been seeing Frances. After she finds out, Melissa writes Frances an email, trying to ascertain what it is Frances is hoping for in a relationship with Nick, insisting that Nick will never leave her. Melissa’s tone in the email is conflicted. She then explains Nicks nature and how the rifts started in their relationship, but says despite this, he will stay with her. She ends the email with an invite for Frances and Bobbi to join them for dinner one evening which they do, in fact they attend several dinners.
Things remain as they were for a while. Frances begins to have money difficulties as her father stops sending her monthly instalments and she is unable to reach him. When Valerie emails Frances out of the blue and asks to read some of her writing, Frances sends her a story she has been working on. The story has a positive reception and Frances is offered the opportunity to have it published in a literary magazine for a fee. As she is struggling for cash, Frances welcomes the news. She makes another trip back home to visit her mother and to get the results of her medical tests. While there, she is diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition which means she is likely to have difficulty in conceiving and which explains the discomfort and fatigue she has been feeling. After getting the results, she receives a call from Nick in which he informs her that he has since slept with Melissa and that he felt he should let Frances know. Frances pretends not to care despite the fact that she does and decides not to disclose her news regarding her diagnosis. She then ignores Nicks attempts to contact her for a while.
Upon returning home one night, Frances finds herself engaging in a dispute with Bobbi who has since read Frances’ story (after Melissa emailed her the manuscript). The story contains details of Frances and Bobbi’s relationship which infuriates Bobbi and causes her to tear up a printed copy in front of Frances’ face. Bobbi then moves out.
Frances gets back in touch with Nick and he comes around to visit. He tries to broach the subject of his sleeping with Melissa but Frances remains dismissive and pretends that it doesn’t bother her. They start to engage in sex but Frances cries during, and Nick suggests they stop. After discussing how best to manage their relationship, Frances suggests that there isn’t a solution other than that they should split up. Nick agrees despite seeming reluctant. Frances self-harms after he leaves.
Frances goes scouting for a job and ends up working evenings in a café. One night she calls Melissa and tries to confront her on sending Bobbi the manuscript. In the end Frances ends up apologising for her actions and hangs up.
Frances writes an email to Bobbi apologising for the story and trying to express her feelings towards her. Bobbi then turns up at her door and accepts the apology. The two begin a quasi-romantic relationship which they decide not to label. The novel skips forward to Christmas time with Frances roaming a bookshop in search of a present for Bobbi. She receives a call from Nick who has mistakenly called her thinking he dialled Melissa. The two begin recounting their relationship with both still suggesting an interest in one another. The novel ends with Frances asking Nick ‘come get me.’