Normal People by Sally Rooney

Recently, I’ve become very obsessed with Sally Rooney. At the the very end of December 2019, I finally got around to reading her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, and I was immediately hooked. I went out straight-away to get Normal People, which is even more critically acclaimed. I truly could not tell you which one I liked better; I think that Normal People left more of an impact on me, simply because I read the two books back to back, and Normal People was second in the line-up.

Normal People is about Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron, beginning with their lives prior to going to university. The two engage in a secret relationship, which ultimately falls apart. However, both attend Trinity College Dublin, and it’s not long before they run into each other again. Ultimately, Marianne and Connell are unable to stay away from each other, and their relationship spans friendships and countries as their lives diverge on different paths.

Rooney’s character development drove the story in a strong way, allowing Marianne and Connell to experience life in a way that was incredibly real and believable.

This sophomore work asked me the question, “how important is it to keep a person in your life who seems to ultimately understand you more than anyone else?”

One of my favorite quotes (I dog-eared the page, underlined it, the whole nine-yards) is:

“Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t know if she would ever find out where it was or become part of it.”

This line resonated, and really, the whole book, resonated with me in a way that literature hasn’t been able to in a while. I get this feeling as well, sometimes, that life is something non-tangible, that if you let it, it will escape through your fingers like shifting sand. I’m of the firm belief that good books will hold a mirror up to you, that they will cause you to recognize a fundamental truth, without the author knowing anything about you previously, and Normal People had that effect on me the whole time I was reading it.

I know I’m waxing poetic about this novel, not even offering critiques of any sort. I never really do in my book reviews. I think that looking at a book for its strengths is more beneficial than picking it apart, looking for any errors on the author’s part. And the strengths Sally Rooney displays in Normal People are some of the best I’ve ever seen, especially for an author not that much older than I am.

As of the writing of this review, Rooney is only 28 and has two novels under her belt, and she was also the editor of the Irish literary magazine, The Stinging Fly. You can read The New Yorker article on her here. It’s a great read, one that makes me want to be more like her, if I’m being completely honest. I just ordered her short story, Mr. Salary, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

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