'Conversations with Friends' TV show vs. book: what are the biggest differences?

The 'Conversations with Friends' TV show is as tumultuous as its print counterpart, but with a few modifications

nick and frances in the car in conversations with friends, conversations with friends tv show
(Image credit: Enda Bowe/Hulu)

Prepare for some turbulence: the Conversations with Friends TV show is a messy, tumultuous look at love at its most confusing. 

If you thought Normal People's Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones had a rough ride in the romance department, just wait until you become acquainted with the Conversations with Friends cast.

The infamous quartet from Sally Rooney's debut novel has finally made its way onto screens— toxic dating trends and all—on Sunday, May 15. In typical Rooney fashion, we are treated to complicated characters and even more complicated situations. 

Now that her first book has been recreated for a new medium, how does it compare to its original? Readers and viewers, here's the scoop on Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Vanessa's interwoven chaos. 

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

'Conversations with Friends' TV show vs. book

Before we take a look at the differences between the novel and series, let's backtrack to the plot.

Frances (Alison Oliver) and Bobbi (Sasha Lane), college-aged poets and former lovers, become acquainted with a writer, Melissa (Jemima Kirke), and her actor husband Nick (Joe Alwyn) after their spoken-word show. What begins as a professional relationship takes a turn for the romantic, and quickly. Bobbi is infatuated with Melissa, and Frances and Nick soon start an affair. 

Naturally, this makes a mess for all involved in more ways than you might've imagined. Now, onto the differences between page and screen:

1. The initial meeting

Should you stay friends with an ex? Bobbi and Frances, former lovers turned best friends and spoken word performers, seemingly make it work...until Melissa enters the picture. 

After a show, Bobbi—a white woman in the book and a Black-American woman on the show—recognizes Melissa at the bar and strikes up a conversation with the esteemed writer. Onscreen, this progresses to midday swims and home-cooked dinners, but in the novel, Melissa is actually hired to profile both Bobbi and Frances. 

Rather quickly, Bobbi and Frances become integrated into Melissa's life. In the novel, this fusion happens instantaneously. In the first chapter, we find the two students staying the night at Melissa and Nick's. 

Conversations with Friends Hulu, Sally Rooney adaptation, Joe Alwyn, Jemima Kirke

(Image credit: Enda Bowe/Hulu)

2. The play tickets

Both on-page and on screen, we sense a connection between Nick and Frances. The rebounding actor sends a ticket to the young writer to see his new play, which escalates the chemistry between the two forbidden lovers. In the book, however, Nick sends out two tickets for his newfound friends. 

3. Frances' mom is suspicious

Frances, our protagonist, oftentimes travels from Dublin back home to the Irish countryside. Getting her to make even the simplest of conversations is a struggle for her mother in the series. In the book, however, she is more aware of Frances' relationships and therefore more vocal about her daughter's interactions.

4. Location, location, location

Though many times Rooney's stories start out in Ireland, they often make their way to different European regions. Where is Conversations with Friends set? Well, in the novel, the four venture for a summer getaway to France, but in the show, they visit Melissa's agent's vacation home in Croatia (one of the best destinations for solo travel, if you're wondering). 

The locations might change, but they're all stunning!

conversations with friends cast

(Image credit: Enda Bowe/Hulu)

5. Secret's out

In the novel, Bobbi makes her way around the vacation home one evening in search of Frances. When she approaches Nick, he reveals that Frances has been with him, in turn revealing their affair. 

In the series, Bobbi walks in on Nick and Frances' intimate moment, which of course, makes things all the more difficult for the two moving forward. 


Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
RRP: $17.99, £4.50

6. Frances' health scares

Frances suffers from extreme menstrual problems, which are revealed earlier in the novel than in the series. Additionally, she self-harms when things get complicated in her life, something that is only visited towards the end of the TV show. 

7. Frances and Nick's relationship

Things play out a lot more passionately between Nick and Frances in the book than they do on TV. Although yes, there are some steamy moments on screen, it's worth noting that there are exchanges between the two that do not exist in the series. 

In fact, there's a whole email exchange with the two fighting, an interaction that we don't typically see in the show; more often than not, they're fairly cordial. Plus, in the novel, Nick lends Frances money, and we all know how that can complicate things. 

conversations with friends episodic shot

(Image credit: Enda Bowe/Hulu)

8. Frances' and Bobbi's fight

After Melissa learns of the affair between her husband and Frances, she shows Bobbi the "fictional" essay Frances has published, which is about their relationship. In the book, this is a monumental fight—shouts, torn manuscripts and all. In the series, it plays out a little less dramatic, but it's still a substantial turning point that marks their friendship breakup

9. 'Normal People' crossover?

Don't expect Marianne and Connell from Normal People to make their way into this new show. However, we do catch a reference to Marianne—and her boyfriend Andrew—in the Conversations with Friends book.

10. 'Conversations with Friends' ending

Nothing wraps up seamlessly. Though Bobbi and Frances make amends—so much so that they're even sleeping together—Frances ultimately says "come get me" when Nick gives her a ring. We don't necessarily know the next step for either party, and the book certainly lends itself to a sequel. Fingers crossed it's in the future! 

In the meantime, enjoy Conversations with Friends, Hulu and BBC's latest Sally Rooney adaptation, but likely not the last.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.