The Conversations by Olivia Fane

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The Conversations by Olivia Fane

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A book that's a real conversation starter, this prompts you to think about things you might often overlook, and have some interesting conversations with your loved ones as a result.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099581987

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I need no encouragement to start talking. Leave me alone with someone and I will find something to talk to them about, in whatever language. I’ve dated people I’ve met by talking to them on aeroplanes, hablaring español with them in evening classes, chatting to them online. I’ve made friends at the gym, on the shop floor, during a day’s IT system training, people I still keep in touch with. So you might think the last thing I need is a book of conversation starters, and yet in a way that’s what this is.

Covering dozens and dozens of topics, from nagging to flirting, this book features a never-ending series of short essays followed by ‘food for thought’, a range of questions related to the topic to start you talking. Some link back to the points raised in the essay, and others are broader interpretations of the topic. The point is to prod you into discussing things you may not have talked about yet, with a partner, family member or good friend.

I really enjoyed this book and it was interesting to flick through and see which ones I knew I had discussed with various people, and which ones I hadn’t. Some come up in every day conversation or emerge from watching someone’s choices, for example in answer to Do you enjoy violence in books and films? the Boy would know I dislike horror films from the fact I never choose one when it’s my turn to pick at the cinema, but that I’m ok with the likes of Breaking Bad.

Some things you know by living with someone or spending time with them, such as their approach to cleanliness or their relationship to cookery books. Others might not have come up yet, if the situation hasn’t presented itself such as When you go to an art gallery with a friend, how eager are you to talk intelligently about what you see?

Perhaps the most interesting questions, though, were the ones you might internalise but rarely discuss with another person:

Do you consider yourself more or less needy than the average person? How bad would your life have to be before you considered suicide? Do you think you give enough to charity?

There wasn’t always a natural or subtle way to ask these, and at times I felt like I was shoehorning something irrelevant into a conversation, but I did try to get us talking about a few just to see where they took us. I was quite surprised that some resulted in rather abrupt answers, rather than leading to the leisurely conversations I had anticipated, but I wasn’t deterred and tried again.

This is the sort of book that fails if you try to read it cover to cover in one sitting. It’s not meant for that. Instead keep by the side of the bed and dip in and out of it as you see fit. I learned a lot from the chats we had that were prompted by this book (not to mention that I also found the essays insightful and entertaining) and they made for some great pillow talk.

It’s fun and it’s different and it’s highly recommended, so I must thank the publishers for giving us a copy to dissect. And a guarantee that I will never, EVER run out of things to talk about.

If all this questioning leads you to feel a bit miffed with life, The Happy Life: The Search for Contentment in the Modern World by David Malouf is sure to get you back on track.

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Buy The Conversations by Olivia Fane at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Conversations by Olivia Fane at


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