Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney


Normal People

by Sally Rooney

Contemporary Fiction, Romance

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

Normal People is a book that, by now, I’m sure you’ve all heard the hype about. That’s mainly why I was so hesitant to begin reading my first work of Sally Ronney because I was afraid all the garnered praise surrounding it would lead to my bitter disappointment. However, I’m glad to say that was definitely not the case.

Set in both Sligo and Dublin, Normal People follows the 21st century love story of Marianne and Connell, who after having a brief fling in their final year of school, realise they neither can escape the other’s life in the several years that follow, no matter how much they want to.

The characters were so complex and delicious to read. They might have been my favourite part of the book. They had so many layers and they were both so likeable and unlikable at the same time.

I can’t quite say why I liked this book so much, but I just did. Maybe it’s the relatability I’ve felt because the book deals with growing up past the stage of secondary school and really maturing into your own person, which is something I have been doing in the last 2 years or so. Rooney writes with simple enough language but it is utterly effective. I was hooked into this story after the first page. Her prose is gorgeous and sometimes I would be reading certain descriptions and they were so powerful and real that I had to pause when I was reading the book and really let them sink in. Rooney gathers these almost throwaway statements into one book and leaves you really thinking on them for a long time. By writing this book, Rooney almost pre-heated the philosophical oven for a cake and as you’re reading it, you’re letting it bake. Finally once you’ve finished the cake is done and you can look and taste it in its full glory. That’s what reading Normal People felt like, and I do think it is required reading for anyone of this generation. I shall definitely be thinking about this in months to come, and can’t wait to pick up her other works.