‘The literary phenomenon of the decade.’ – Guardian
– Normal People
[ About the Book ]
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.
[ My Review ]
Normal People by Irish writer Sally Rooney was first published in August 2018 with Faber & Faber. Described as an ‘exquisite love story‘ Normal People has won great acclaim across the globe and is now available as a BBC adaptation directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
OVER ONE MILLION COPIES SOLD
THE NUMBER ONE SUNDAY TIMES AND TOP FIVE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE COSTA NOVEL AWARD 2018
WINNER OF THE AN POST IRISH BOOK AWARDS NOVEL OF THE YEAR
WINNER OF NOVEL OF THE YEAR AND BOOK OF THE YEAR AT THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS
WINNER OF THE SPECSAVERS NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS INTERNATIONAL AUTHOR OF THE YEAR
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2018
LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2019
(Source – Amazon UK)
I was late to Normal People. For some reason it never really came into my radar until recently when I began to read about the upcoming TV adaptation. I was undecided about reading it but, to be honest, FOMO got the better of me and if I was going to watch the TV series, I felt it was important to get an understanding of the premise and my own visual of the characters. I tentatively approached the book somehow expecting a YA novel but was immediately captivated by the story of it’s main characters, Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan.
Set in a town off the West Coast of Ireland, Normal People explores the very fragile relationship between two people. Connell lives with his mother in a housing estate. Marianne lives with her mother and brother in a more affluent setting. Connell’s mother cleans Marianne’s house twice/three times a week. Their backgrounds are different to the extreme, yet something clicks. Something very delicate arises between them, a unique and gentle connection.
Marianne is a loner, an academic, a young woman who doesn’t mix with others in school. She is considered an oddity, a person to be laughed at and joked about. Connell is an all-rounder, a GAA player with a endearing personality and an academic mind. Connell collects his mother from Marianne’s house every week but the pair have minimal contact, minimal conversation, until one day. That day is when a spark is lit and a fire begins to gently burn, one that would stay lit for many years to follow.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me, says Marianne. I don’t know why I can’t be like normal people.
Marianne battles greatly to be herself. She is very much aware that she is different, that her perceptions of life are uniquely hers. Marianne does not care for the opinions or the affirmations of others but Connell does. Connell enjoys his sport, enjoys the company of his friends. His shyness is an attractive quality, making him a popular catch among his female classmates and friends. Someone like Connell does not go out with someone like Marianne. Shamed by the expectations placed on him, Connell asks Marianne to keep their burgeoning relationship secret, which she does, but Connell struggles with it all.
Reading Connell and Marianne’s story, reading about their fragile and very tender relationship had an almost voyeuristic quality to it. Sally Rooney writes exquisitely about the tentative nature of their romance. The pace is beautifully captivated as they embark on a spiritual, emotional and sexual journey together.
As the direction of their lives takes them from their homes in the west of Ireland to Dublin and Trinity College, the balance shifts. Marianne is comfortable among the elite, the wealthy and the eccentrics but Connell feels out of depth, very much a fish out of water.
Connell’s experiences of college life are wonderfully portrayed. His mental health issues are delicately and sensitively handled and are a very important highlighting of societal issues today.
Sally Rooney has captured something very special with this novel. Normal People is not a fast-paced read. It is a meander, a slow-moving exploration of love and relationships, of people and of emotions. It is very sparse in it’s use of conversation but it is strong in it’s communication. Normal People is an exceptional novel. It’s strength is in it’s silences, the untold story. Over the years Connell and Marianne travel down some diverse paths but there is a delicate thread forever tying them together.
All these years they’ve been like two little plants sharing the same plot of soil, growing around one another, contorting to make room, taking certain unlikely positions.
Normal People is an extraordinary read. It is a very raw and sensitive exploration of two young lovers who, when together, have a very destructive yet passionate relationship, but when apart, struggle to function, to interact with others. It is a powerful read that very sensitively highlights many themes including love, abuse, mental health and growing up.
Normal People is a remarkable book. It is, at times, a suffocating read in it’s portrayal of this most intense of relationships but it is this intensity that captivates and compels the reader.
(Note ~ I am currently watching the TV series and am blown away by the cast, the perfection, the beauty of it. Definitely deserving of all the praise, all the glory)
[ Bio ]
Sally Rooney was born in County Mayo and lives in Dublin. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times and The London Review of Books. She is the author of Conversations with Friends and winner of the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer Award 2017.
Her second novel Normal People was published in 2018 and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She is the editor of the biannual Dublin literary magazine The Stinging Fly.