Normal People by Sally Rooney


Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publication Date: 28th August 2018
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery

Connell and Marianne both grow up in the same town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. But they both get places to study at university in Dublin, and a connection that has grown between them despite the social tangle of school lasts long into the following years.

Sally Rooney's second novel is a deeply political novel, just as it's also a novel about love. It's about how difficult it is to speak to what you feel and how difficult it is to change. It's wry and seductive; perceptive and bold. It will make you cry and you will know yourself through it.

Rooney has achieved a feat that seems impossible after Conversations with Friends. Her new novel feels seminal and true and the hold it will have over its readers will be one of the finest occurrence this September.

I read an extract from Normal People by Sally Rooney on the Granta website and was immediately drawn in. She presents the main protagonists, Connell and Marianne, in such detail, in such normal everyday detail, that I was completely taken in by them. They were vivid and real and the plot of the book may seem generic, but you feel so invested in these characters that you want, and need, to know what happens.

I've read a number of reviews commenting on cliché characters and plot points, but I disagree. They're not cliché, they're real, everyday events. They seem familiar because they are. We've all experienced the 'popular' kids at school, whether we were one ourselves, were looking on from the periphery, or were even bullied by them. The reactions of the characters are relatable and frustratingly trivial. There's no heroes in this novel. Decisions are made based on social standing, pride and miscommunication. If you can relate to any of the characters it will cut right to your core, I'm sure of it.

"Marianne thinks cruelty does not only hurt the victim but the perpetrator also, and maybe more deeply and more permanently. You learn nothing very profound about yourself simply by being bullied, but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget.

The timeline focuses on the pivotal moments in the protagonists' lives, jumping in time by three months, two months, a few days. So for a book lacking in plot, it very much maintains momentum. I was swept up in Marianne and Connell's lives and felt like I was witnessing two friends' destructive relationship. There are some odd plot points that didn't quite work for me, Marianne's brother being one. Abusive with no explanation other than to seemingly allow interaction between Marianne and Connell. And I'm a little bit tired of the whole middle class university thing in contemporary fiction, perhaps it's simply that I cannot relate. I'd love to read more from writer's who haven't honed their craft at university. I guess I need to believe it can be done without access to higher education. On that note, I think Normal People will make a wonderful book club read. I may even suggest it to mine. I think the conversations it would inspire about class, social standing, loneliness, sex, popularity, would be very interesting.

Normal People won't be for everyone. It reminded at times of The Lesser Bohemians and One Day, falling somewhere in between in terms of readability. It's not a cheery one, but it's bloody good.

Story - 3/5
Writing - 4/5
Character - 5/5
Memorability - 3/5
Enjoyment - 4/5
Overall rating - 4/5

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