This was a strangely riveting, poignant and overwhelming book. I had a hard time reading it all the way through like I normally do. I had to put it down and come back to it. But it is definitely a book that will stay with me forever. Normal People by Sally Rooney is a raw and unyielding look at two abnormal people, desperately trying to be normal.
Connell and Marianne attend the same school in a small town in Ireland. Connell is popular, yet quiet. Marianne is shunned by her peers and viewed eccentricity. With there completely different status’ at school there are two things that link them together — their intelligence and Connell’s single mother cleans for Maianne’s windowed mother. Even with their differences, the two start a casual sexual relationship leading to them both applying, and successfully, getting into Trinity. From there, the book takes us through years of ups and downs for the two characters. From romance, to economic and political issues, social status’ and even abuse — this book is truly a universal story of love, friendship and growing up. It was a masterpiece.
The book itself moves forwards in spaced chapters which are dated like ‘Three Months Later’, with alternating third-party viewpoints. This allowed the author to go back on key events since the last chapter and even look at the changing dynamics of the two main characters.
These two characters and their relationship is very complex and it explores intense and profound places. Marianne has a bit of a masochistic streak and is attracted to sadism. Connell on the other hand tries to escape his depression and finds it in literature. Here’s one line that really showed Rooney’s efforts to showcase the literary world:
“It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about.”
I found the writing of this book to be superb. It is witty and sharp. Rooney’s ability to examine her characters is profound. I would love to take her out to dinner and pick her brain. To have the ability to write such an exceptional book — the tenderness and horror of real life if captivating.
Normal People by Sally Rooney is definitely one of those books that I enjoyed but wouldn’t really recommend to everyone. It tackles a lot of issues that many would find difficult to read about. Putting that aside, this is a raw and mesmerizing look at real, normal people.
Thank you to NetGalley, Crown Publishing and Sally Rooney for providing me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. It will be published April 16.