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Topics of Conversation

2.79  ·  Rating details ·  6,335 ratings  ·  1,092 reviews
A compact tour de force about sex, violence, and self-loathing from a ferociously talented new voice in fiction, perfect for fans of Sally Rooney, Rachel Cusk, Lydia Davis, and Jenny Offill.

"Shrewd and sensual, Popkey's debut carries the scintillating charge of a long-overdue girls' night. --O, The Oprah Magazine

A Best Book of the Year by TIME, Esquire, Real Simple,
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 7th 2020 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 2.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,335 ratings  ·  1,092 reviews

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Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Jan 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
I found this book to be pretentious and disengaging. Aside from the fact that none of the characters were likable, the book itself is written in primarily run-on sentences. If I wanted to read a Faulkner book, I would have and would have enjoyed it more, because Faulkner tells stories. I cannot for the life of me figure out why so many people are A) liking this book or B) saying they couldn't put it down. I found it very easy to put down actually. I wanted to throw it across the room. ...more
Skyler Autumn
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: surprise
4 Stars

This is how Miranda Popkey should feel about the bashing she's getting on Goodreads:


This book is great. Smart, intelligent and full of intricate thought-provoking conversations that stay with you. BUT if you're going to get all upset reading a book with run on sentences may I suggest picking up something else or just removing the stick from your ass.
Book of the Month
Why I love it
by Cristina Arreola

Topics of Conversation is my worst nightmare come true: a book in which my darkest, most shameful, most secret thoughts are laid bare on the page. The title of this brisk, slim novel hints at its atypical structure—in lieu of a conventional plot, this novel takes us through twenty disparate years of the unnamed narrator’s life.

Each chapter of this debut is a different conversation taking place during the unnamed narrator’s life, from college years to newlywed stat
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
In a way I feel a bit bad contributing to this book's overwhelmingly negative reception, because I do think it has more going for it than its low Goodreads rating might suggest, and I can see where others could get something out of it.  But at the same time, this did literally nothing for me, so here we are.

The Rachel Cusk comparisons are a dime a dozen, and I will spare you from that seeing as I've never read Rachel Cusk; I will instead address the Sally Rooney comparisons.  Both authors interr
Paris (parisperusing)
“There is, below the surface of every conversation in which intimacies are shared, an erotic current. Sometimes this current is so hot it all but boils and other times it’s barely lukewarm, hardly noticeable, but always the current is present, if only you plunge your hands in just an inch or two farther down in the water. This is regardless of the gender of the people involved, of their sexual orientations. This is the natural outcome of disclosure, for to disclose is to reveal, to bring out int ...more
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5, rounded down.

I have to say, the really low ratings on this book here on GR are probably the result of a really stupid marketing ploy that backfired- when you compare a so-so debut work to the likes of Cusk, Rooney, Davis and Offill ... and then utterly fail to deliver anything close to that, naturally people are going to be mad and react accordingly. Aside from that, Popkey, much like her surely autobiographical protagonist, suffers from delusions of grandeur herself - when her character as
Larry H
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Miranda Popkey's Topics of Conversation is a novel of commentary on issues about gender, sex, and violence, framed as conversations.

I’m going to call this review a #maybeitsmenotyou review. I read a lot, as many of you know, and I feel like I “get” themes and issues and situations even if I can’t personally identify with them. But every so often a book comes along and it doesn’t work for me and I wonder if maybe it’s because I can’t identify with the characters or subject matter.

I’m going to
Claire Reads Books
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
I finished this novel (which is actually just a collection of inane MFA short stories about ”bad women”) two weeks ago, and it was so forgettable, uninspiring, and blatantly derivative that I only just remembered to log it on Goodreads. Just go read Rachel Cusk instead.
Jan 03, 2020 rated it did not like it
Ugh. I so wanted to love this one. And maybe it’s just above me. But I was truly bored to tears. I made myself push through and finish since it’s only 202 pages but ugh. The writing especially in the first story was so hard to focus on as it was one long, backtracking, run-on sentence after another. A lot of people clearly enjoyed this, but it was not for me.
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Intelligent and thought-provoking, painful and disquieting, angry but with a touch of dark humor - there are many more descriptions that I could apply to Topics of Conversation, Miranda Popkey’s debut novel. Impressive will certainly do, to keep it simple. I was impressed.

There have been many comparisons to authors such as Rachel Cusk, Sally Rooney and Jenny Offill. I have yet to read a review that doesn’t make these comparisons. They are fair and may provide a helpful guideline for curious read
Jan 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
Sooo disappointed in Book of the Month (BOTM).
The Nerd Daily
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Beth Mowbray

Reading the synopsis alone for Topics of Conversation evokes a powerful set of emotions. Take a look: “Miranda Popkey writes of desire, disgust, motherhood, loneliness, art, pain, feminism, anger, envy, and guilt … composed almost exclusively of conversations between women—the stories they tell each other, and the stories they tell themselves, about shame and love, infidelity and self-sabotage …” Stunning, right?

This novel opens with
Jan 11, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book bored me to tears. It really has no plot-it’s just a series of short stories taken from an unnamed narrator’s life, like a bunch of snapshots. The writing style wasn’t for me. At least it only took me an hour or so to read.
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Remember the name Miranda Popkey right now. Her debut book “topics of conversation” comes out in January and it is one you will not want to miss. I was reminded of Sally Rooney and Melissa Broder but a little more intellectual and grown up. Not taking away from either of those two women and their ability to write a great novel that I enjoy but Popkey is the real deal. Smart, innovative, and brutally honest about tough subjects. Mainly focused on the normalization of women’s sexuality and how gen ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, fiction
[Still going to re-read this closer to publication, but I want to get some initial thoughts up before the year is out!]

I can see this being one of the big reads of 2020 - Miranda Popkey's novel stands up on its own merits, but for purposes of comparison I'd agree with the Goodreads blurb which recommends it for readers of Rachel Cusk and Jenny Offill, though at times I was reminded of the clarity in Sally Rooney's writing as well.

The story follows an unnamed woman over the course of 15 years th
Toni Erickson
Jan 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
I’m sorry, but I can’t stand this book. Hate to say that, but it’s the cold truth. DNF at 108. I wanted to like it so bad, but I just can’t. I don’t think I enjoyed any part of it, and the best description I can give is: it sucks.

For starters, I hate the structure. It’s filled with run-on sentences and odd grammar. I mean, I get it (I think); it’s written like you were talking to yourself in your head, or at least that’s how I’m interpreting it. But it’s not adding anything to the story. It’s no
Katie Long
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I swore I was not going to mention Rachel Cusk in my review because everyone else already has, but she really is the only frame of reference if you want an idea of Popkey’s style. Popkey has a darker, more subversive, sensibility than Cusk’s that I am interested to see how she develops as she continues her career. 3.5 rounded up.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This was an interesting look at sexual and relationship experiences among women. The narrator records conversations with various women over a 20 year period, but there is little diversity in the types of women or the types of experiences. The narrator seems self-obsessed, but the author seemed to be aware of that. Intentional? Maybe, but I’m not sure to what end. This is often smart and insightful, but the writing style is very fragmented.

y’all really tried it with hyping this book up...

this book has... so many words... without really saying anything at all. it’s like, a movie that a first year male film student raves about and then you watch it and you’re like, the fuck? so he goes in detail regurgitating bullshit to you and then you die of boredom.

it wasn’t until Los Angeles, 2012 that I really started getting annoyed and realized that people just don’t talk like this!! every single character, or “topic of conversation”, is j
Jan 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2020-reads
I cannot adequately put into words how deeply disappointing and honestly upsetting this book was to me. Truly, the 4 and 5 star reviews have me completely baffled; maybe I missed the underlying message here, but this book, at its core, conveyed such a strong theme of hate and resentment that it truly disturbed me. The women throughout these pages were not inspiringly erotic or bravely feminist; rather, they were hate-filled, conceited, and apathetic characters devoid of any sort of intriguing de ...more
Darryl Suite
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Even though I'm feeling sick, I had to finish this book tonight. This novel did it for me. There was something compulsive and addictive about it; I felt like I had to devour it. Some of the themes horrified me, stimulated me, enraptured me; made me wince or nod my head begrudgingly while thinking my, my, myyyy. This book shouldn't have worked for me, but it did, it really did. I'm definitely going to write a full review once I stop feeling feverish (from the sickness and/or maybe even from my gu ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Beautifully written. Raw and magnetic. There is an undercurrent of desire running through every sentence. Highly recommend for readers who enjoy novels that are a little more lyrical/experimental/unusual.
Sahil Javed
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
Topics of Conversation follows the conversations between a woman who is never named and the people she meets throughout the span of her life. The book focuses on conversations mainly between women, about identity, shame, desire, sex and love.
“Remarkable how hard it is for women to admit they’re angry. Not annoyed or upset or irked or miffed or any sentiment that might be captured in a text message that ends in a series of exasperated question marks. Angry.”

It took me a little while
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
Miranda Popkey's Topics of Conversation is a pretentious wax poetic novel written in a painfully dull manner.

The book's interesting-sounding premise is supposedly a "dive into a woman's most intimate thoughts" through only conversations. Unfortunately, this is quite tedious in execution primarily because of the insufferable writing style. I usually enjoy literary works, so I was not scared away when others called Topics of Conversation pretentious or too cerebral, but this novel is not literary
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it
Wow, this book presents some serious Rachel Cusk and Ali Smith vibes. Cusk and Smith are among my favorite female writers so it was hard not to inhale Popkey's prose. The surprise while reading was how though the narrator (is she unnamed?? I can't remember a name) remains the same throughout and her personal life is sometimes vaguely and sometimes specifically alluded to, the story isn't really hers. The story lies in the interaction and the players she's surrounded by changes in each chapter, a ...more
Monica Kim: Reader in Emerald City
“There is, below the surface of every conversation in which intimacies are shared, an erotic current. Sometimes this current is so hot it all but boils and other times it’s barely lukewarm, hardly noticeable, but always the current is present, if only you plunge your hands in just an inch or two farther down in the water. This is regardless of the gender of the people involved, of their sexual orientations. This is the natural outcome of disclosure, for to disclose is to reveal, to bring out int ...more
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Following a woman in a series of conversations across her adult life, the parts of this novel felt like dipping in and out of interconnected short stories. That said, the strength for me was in the component parts, rather than an overall takeaway - each conversation is a mesmerizing, topical and emotively driven interlude into snippets of the narrator’s life and those of the women she speaks with. They touched on themes of desire in many of its manifestations (the most effectively written being ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book is in conversation with many tv shows and books I like (the author lists them in the back) and each chapter is a conversation between women about events that took place off the page. I would say it feels like it almost works but ultimately I'm more engaged by the texts it intends to be in conversation with. I also found the prose to be needlessly awkward with sentence fragments I often had to read out loud to fully understand (and they didn't seem conversational as much as incomplete.) ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
Did I, do I, loathe every moment spent with this book? Yes. The use — or shall I say, misuse — of commas in this book and the flagrant disregard for sensible punctuation in general made for a very distracting read. (Yes, I know it’s called “style”.)

While I *think* there were some interesting topics of exploration in this book, it’s really hard to say b/c my disdain for the writing style and narrator completely overshadowed anything else. Sorry, not for me.

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The Wild Detectiv...: Miranda Popkey's Topics of Conversation 1 19 Feb 04, 2020 06:50PM  

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