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Topics of Conversation

2.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,108 ratings  ·  246 reviews
For readers of Rachel Cusk, Lydia Davis, and Jenny Offill--a compact tour de force about sex, violence, and self-loathing from a ferociously talented new voice in fiction

Miranda Popkey's first novel is about desire, disgust, motherhood, loneliness, art, pain, feminism, anger, envy, guilt--written in language that sizzles with intelligence and eroticism. The novel is
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 7th 2020 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 2.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,108 ratings  ·  246 reviews

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Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: botm
I've seen this book described as "gorgeous", "poignant" and "important".

Maybe I'm not as smart or as deep as these readers but maybe, just maybe, I caught something they didn't. It felt to me that it was far more important for the author to be perceived this way than it was to truly write this way.

You know how sometimes when you are watching a movie you are pulled out of it completely by the acting? It's heavy-handed in a way that makes you think, "Settle down"? That was this, I was too aware of
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
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 ...more
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
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs, 2020-releases
Thank you to Random House for providing me with an eARC of this via Edelweiss!

Topics of Conversation is another in a string of books I've come across lately that center on and explore what I'm going to call the problematic woman. The problematic woman is not problematic because she is Bad—whatever that means—but because she is "full of problems or difficulties." By "problematic," here, I mean women who feel too much or too little, are too passive or too foolhardy, judge their decisions too
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.
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
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 ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, netgalley
[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
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 ...more
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
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.
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
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked 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, ...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
Jan 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
Sooo disappointed in Book of the Month (BOTM).
Beth M.
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I first read the synopsis for Topics of Conversation, it took me aback. “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?

Reading this book was just the experience I hoped it would be. Popkey’s story unfolds across two
Jessica Sullivan
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“That of course life is random, a series of coincidences, etc., but that to live you must attempt to make sense of it, and that’s what narrative’s for.”

Inject this book directly into my veins, please. Reading this reminded me of reading Call Me By Your Name. While this is a completely different narrative, it is similarly sensual and self-conscious and intellectually edifying. It is essentially a series of conversations that one woman has with people over the years as she gradually upends her
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Happy pub-week to Popkey's debut novel - Topics of Conversation.

Divided in chapters that felt more like interconnected short stories, this book was told mainly in conversations. The author made some really interesting choices, like leaving the narrator unnamed, which helped to set the mood.
The dialogues felt incredibly natural; I almost felt like I was in the same room with these characters.

The topics of conversation - unhappy love stories, infidelity, violence - couldn't be more apt to my
tori ✨
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
For those who like to listen to unlikeable white women wax poetic about their woes. I am not one of those people. Maybe you are though.
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.

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
Jan Agaton
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Ugh, I REALLY wanted to like this book more than I did. I was intrigued by the synopsis and reviews saying it's filled with an unnamed woman's honest, intimate thoughts and secrets, and it was exactly that, but the writing style just didn't do it for me. It took a lot of getting used to because of the constant run-on sentences. I understand the author's intention was to make it sound as close to how people talk in casual conversations as possible, but it just got hard to read at some points. ...more
Naomi (3starsandup)
Jan 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
"The different between jealousy and envy, do you know it? She did not wait to see if I would sake or nod my head. Envy is wanting to acquire the thing you do not have. Jealousy is wanting to keep the thing you do."

SYNOPSIS | This novel explores a 20 year period in the life of an unnamed narrator and is composed almost exclusively of conversations that occurred between themselves and other women. As the title suggests, there are many topics of conversation.

MY THOUGHTS | I picked this up because
Alex Bente
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
This was not my favorite. The stream of consciousness writing was hard to read and I often had to go back and re-read segments to tell which “she“ she was talking about. Additionally, the narrator’s self-awareness was confusing, and it was hard to determine if she was a reliable or an unreliable narrator. Despite this, and the fact that I was not entirely captivated, I was desperate to find out who she was. Which I guess, indicates that the book was interesting. I’m not sure I ever found out, ...more
Emily Kehoe
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was really hoping this would be an insight to conversations women have in varying stages of life. Although that was the main premise, I found the style of writing to be confusing and disengaging, and the characters not relatable.
Afton Montgomery
This small but mighty debut from Miranda Popkey is told over the course of 20 years in the conversations that one unnamed narrator has. Mostly, these are conversations amongst women-- a group of mothers in Fresnogetting wine drunk while their babies sleepin the next room,divulging how they wound up single and pregnant; a family trip to Italy that falls into a sensual interaction between the narrator and her friend's mother; a near-evil back and forth between the narrator and a friend who treats ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars

This was a frustrating read to say the least. More often than not a novel that is described in the synopsis as being about "...desire, disgust, motherhood, loneliness, art, pain, feminism, anger, envy, guilt--written in language that sizzles with intelligence and eroticism," can't deliver on those promises so I shouldn't be surprised. Not that the novel doesn't touch on these things, it does, but I found the voice of the narrator like another reviewer states "heavy handed". Reading it
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Miranda Popkey’s Topics of Conversation traverses 17 years in the life of its unnamed female narrator, whom we piece together through the conversations that occur between her and other women throughout the book. These exchanges probe and prod desire, motherhood, lies, ambition, infidelity, sexuality—the process of divulging ultimately evoking intimacy. The narrator realizes the import of such shared moments, claiming that the activity of disclosure carries an erotic current. It is in reflections ...more
Lynn Fraser
This novel reads like a series of short stories connected by narrator and theme - women, their sexuality and their relationships with men. No one comes out of it well. Everyone and the world is broken. The book is clever and well written. But... (you could hear that ‘but’ coming, I suspect and I feel like I should preface what follows with a ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ disclaimer.) I didn’t enjoy it. I found it cold and only engaging in moments. I don’t mind not liking a character but I didn’t care ...more
Tracy Miller
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: listened
I forget that I’m not about super interior novels where nothing happens until I’m in to one. This should be called “Topics of Monologue” though as no one converses this way. If I was goi g to read it, I should have read rather than listened.
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