Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Frances is an intelligent 21-year-old woman who is currently a university student. Although she often appears unemotional and detached, she yearns for love and approval. Despite her ego and somewhat selfish nature, she is very insecure, especially about her physical appearance. She likes to wear dark clothes and often wishes to be more like Bobbi. Bobbi thinks that she “doesn’t have a real personality,” because she is too reserved and “polite.” She is a poet, and she and Bobbi do poetry performances together. Frances doesn’t want to think or talk about economic and financial stability, but she is aware that she will have to work in order to provide for herself. Her parents are divorced and live separately in Ballina. She has a complicated relationship with her father, as he is an alcoholic. She loves both Nick and Bobbi, and at the end of the novel it is suggested that she might be dating both of them. Frances has endometriosis and suffers from excruciating abdominal pain, and she occasionally harms herself in order to feel better.
Bobbi is Frances’s best friend and occasional lover. She is a radiantly attractive and incredibly charismatic young woman who is capable of grabbing everyone’s attention. Her striking appearance and cool demeanor draw people towards her. She is very opinionated and someone “who is never fully serious, but also never fully joking.” She studies history and politics and enjoys having political and social debates in which she demonstrates her feminist and liberal views. She is a gay woman who is very open with her emotions, and unlike Frances she is not afraid of showing vulnerability. She has a mischievous demeanour and spent a lot of time in detention when she was younger. She dislikes the rich, even though she comes from a rich family. Bobbi is unemployed and has never actually worked a day in her life, but she loves talking with people about their jobs.
Nick is a 32-year-old B-list actor, who has starred in several plays, films and TV shows. He is described as a kind and handsome man, with a pronounced bone structure and a soft mouth. He’s married to Melissa, but they sleep in separate bedrooms, because their marriage is not as passionate as it used to be. He studied English and French at college and considers himself a Marxist who “doesn’t want to be judged for owning a house.” He comes from a wealthy family and has two siblings and a niece, whom he loves very much. He used to suffer from depression and was even hospitalized. At first, he is intrigued by Frances and her intellect, but as time passes, he slowly starts to fall in love with her. Even though the book has an open ending, it is presumed that Nick and Frances rekindle their relationship.
Melissa is a 37-year-old successful writer and photographer who writes for several literary websites. She is bisexual and, according to her husband, has had several affairs. Melissa thinks that she and Frances are quite similar in character, which is perhaps why they both fell in love with Nick. She loves her husband, but she is also aware that Frances makes him happier. In this sense, she wonders whether she has failed as a wife.
Frances’s mother misses her daughter greatly and supports her in her choices. However, Frances feels that her mom isn’t very interested in her personal life. She gets along with Bobbi, as she is a social democrat and Bobbi identifies as a ‘communitarian anarchist,’ and the two of them have long discussions about...
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the Spanish Civil War. She and her husband live separately.
Frances’s father is an alcoholic. He lives in a little terrace house in Ballina. When Frances was little, she either ignored her father, which made her mother cry, or she humored him when he asked her random questions, which made her feel “weak and dishonest.” He would be gone for days and when he returned, he would take money from Frances’s savings or sell something from the house in order to buy more alcohol. He often lost his temper and even threw a shoe at Frances. When he moved out, Frances began to visit him every other weekend. Her visits have become rarer, but she still goes to see him occasionally. He feels that Frances looks down on him.
Eleanor is Bobbi’s mother. She is described as “emotionally fragile” and often sick of “unspecified illnesses” for long periods of time. She and her husband often fight.
Jerry is Bobbi’s father. He is a high ranking civil servant in the department of health, and he is described as the “favored parent.” He thinks that Eleanor is after his money. Bobbi calls him and her mother by their names.
Lydia is Bobbi’s younger sister. She is fourteen years old and hates it when her parents fight.
Philip is Frances’s colleague. He is very enthusiastic about working for Sunny. Bobbi describes him as “wussy and effeminate.” He is kind, rich, and morally rigid, and he believes in monogamy.
Camille is Philip’s girlfriend. She believes that people can only love one person in their lives.
Sunny is the director of the literary agency where Frances and Philip are interns. She is interested in Frances’s career, as she believes that Frances has great potential.
Marianne is a friend of Frances and Bobbi. Frances likes her, because she likes to hear about her problems and her life.
Valerie is an old friend and mentor of Melissa. She is in her sixties and is very wealthy, owning multiple properties around the world. She works in publishing and thinks that everyone in her field of work is brash and fake. She advises Bobbi to marry young because beauty doesn’t last. She is brutally honest and unafraid to speak her mind.
Evelyn is a friend of Melissa and Nick. She is a fun-loving and communicative person, and she advises Frances never to get married.
Derek is Evelyn’s husband and a friend of Melissa and Nick. It is suggested that his political views are radical.
Rossa is a young man that Frances meets on Tinder. She sleeps with him once but doesn’t enjoy his company.
Linda works in the coffee shop with Frances. She explains everything there is to know about the job to Frances. She has a son in the Irish army.
Laura is Nick’s sister and Rachel’s mother.
Jim is Laura’s husband and Rachel’s father.
Rachel is Nick’s niece, whom Nick loves very much.