Posted in books

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.

Posted in books

My Year in Books

2019 was a very dramatic year for me, and I think that the books I read reflect that. My goal this year was to read 35 books, but I only made it to 20. However, I enjoyed the time I spent reading this year, and, according to Goodreads, I read over 6,000 pages. So, here are all the books I read, along with a brief review of three of my favorites.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

I’ve reviewed Sweetbitter before, but it was truly one of my favorite reads this year. Tess’s journey through the underbelly of New York City’s world of fine dining is captivating, as are the tense, almost masochistic relationships Tess develops with Simone and Jake.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

This book is a classic, and I can’t believe it took me this long to read it. I had previously read Hemingway’s short stories, along with The Old Man and the Sea, but The Sun Also Rises really cemented Hemingway as one of the best writers of the twentieth century in my opinion. Jake’s navigation of love and the ritual of bullfighting make for an incredible story, boosted by Hemingway’s unmistakable prose style.

Conversation with Friends by Sally Rooney

Conversations with Friends is a book that I think is going to stick with me for a long time. Frances is a 21 year old living in Dublin when she is thrown into the world of an older writer and her husband, an actor. I’m a firm believer that when one reads a book matters, and I think the reason I connected so much to Frances was because we are the same age, both college students, both worried about how the world views us, and both trying to make it as a writer. Sally Rooney’s characters are vivid, alive, and their development is incredible. I am about to start reading Rooney’s second novel, and I can’t wait to see what she does with those characters, as well.

This year brought a lot of personal changes for me, and I am pleased to say that I am much happier now, on January 1, 2020, than I was on January 1, 2019. 2019 was hard, but I don’t think I would change anything about it, and I’m glad I had these books to walk me through it.