Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Why should you read this book?

Goddamnit Sally Rooney! You did it again! As you probably know by now, Conversations with Friends, Rooney’s debut novel, is one of my favorite books of all time. Crown Publishing sent me an advance copy of Normal People a few months ago and I was saving it. I knew that after Normal People I wouldn’t have another Rooney novel to read any time soon. Now that I’ve read it, I have to wait for a new release (although I will read her short stories in the meantime) but that’s okay. Because now I know for sure that Sally Rooney is one of my favorite female contemporary voices.

Normal People follows the lives of Marianne and Connell. At the beginning of the book, the two characters attend the same school but pretend not to know each other. He is popular; she is not. She is private and strange. But Lorraine, Connell’s mother, is the housekeeper at Marianne’s house so one day, they cross paths and their world collides. One year later, they decide to attend Trinity College in Dublin, together.

While I was writing this review, I started thinking about one of my favorite songs. It was a hit in the 90’s and it’s called Secret Smile by Semisonic. The lyrics perfectly describe Marianne and Connell:

“Nobody knows it but you’ve got a secret smile
And you use it only for me
So use it and prove it
Remove this whirling sadness
I’m losing, I’m bluesing
But you can save me from madness now”

Normal People, as Conversations with Friends, is an amazing depiction of the millennial generation. It revolves around feelings like fragmentation, strangeness, loneliness and sadness. I’ve shared this with you but before writing a review, I read the negative comments on Goodreads. Some readers stated they couldn’t care less about the millennial generation and the way they behave and experience life. So why read this book?

Rooney is an extraordinary writer, in my opinion. She doesn’t adorn her writing. Her wold might be complex and ambiguous. But her writing is the opposite. It’s precise, sharp, plain. Rooney’s also able to write powerful lines that just click with me. I also loved the structure of this book. Rooney only tells important events in Connell and Marianne’s story. So, from one chapter to another, the story can jump from three weeks to five months in time.

I know you’re probably wondering what’s my favorite between Conversations with Friends and Normal People. I loved both to death. I rarely cry whilst reading and I cried twice with Normal People. Lol This might not attest to its quality but it proves how touched I was by these characters, by their story. I think Conversations with Friends brings to the table more unconventional ways of seeing and living the world and Normal People entails more intensity, more depth. I am now more attached to Normal People because I’ve just finished it. But, at the end of the day, I loved both.

I’d like to thank Crown Publishing for sending a review copy. You can buy the book here.

“There’s always been something inside her that men wanted to dominate, and their desire for domination can look so much like (…) love.”

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Summary:

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.

This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.

Book Details:

Publisher: Crown Publishing (Penguin Random House)
Published on: April 2019
Format: Hardback
Pages: 288
Price: $26.00

5stars

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

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