*This review will contain spoilers you might want to avoid*
I’ve been waiting for this book for months. It’s like when I was a kid growing up and being excited for Christmas to come. It’s a book that’s been all over my social media – from the beautiful proofs to everyone screaming at the Twitter/Instagram rooftop how much they loved and adored the book. And, of course, it’s long listed for the Man Booker Prize (more on that later). So, when my pre-order arrived on the morning of the publication of the book, I tried my very best not to scream. And now I’ve read it, I’m part of the club and I can say hand on heart: it’s a masterpiece. Truly. So, the book. What’s it all about? Here’s the blurb:
People know that Marianne lives in the white mansion with the driveway and that Connell’s mother is a cleaner, but no one knows of the special relationship between these facts.
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there. In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner who has learnt from painful experience to stay away from her classmates. When the two strike up a conversation in Marianne’s kitchen – awkward but electrifying – something life-changing begins.
NORMAL PEOPLE is a story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people – funny, magnetic, complex – who try to stay apart but find they can’t. It shows us how difficult it is to change who we are. And with heartbreaking tenderness, it reveals how we learn about sex and power, the desire to hurt and be hurt, the desire to love and be loved.
Here is an exquisite love story which breathes fiction with new life.
Words can’t express how much I adored this book. Before I read it, I knew that it was going to be good. But I was also nervous to start it because of the expectation of it and the power around it. But Jesus Christ, I didn’t expect to feel the way I do about it. I read Conversations With Friends not that long ago and I did love it, I adored the characters and Sally Rooney’s writing but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. I think that’s why I was so nervous (and excited at the same time) to read Normal People. But this book was better than Conversations With Friends. I think there’s a number of reasons for this:
- Normal People is told in three-person compared to Conversations With Friends which was in first-person. I feel that while I was distant and out of the situation with Normal People, I was still absorbed, even more so, and it was like watching Connell and Marianne in a small window and watching their lives and story unfold.
- With Normal People, we see Connell and Marianne grow up – literally, each chapter, we jump five, six, seven, etc, months into the future and we catch up on what they’re doing. They are not the same people at the beginning. I really enjoyed going on this journey with them both that explores themselves and also their relationship together.
- This book resonates with me more. I just adored this story and these characters. I’m finding it hard to explain, but the character of Connell especially, well, he broke my heart. There’s a chapter when Connell seeks help for his depression and I thought it was just beautifully written. It wasn’t sensationalised, it was rooted in reality and told beautifully with such tenderness. I think, also being an English student in university resonated with me and not fitting in growing up in school, etc. It’s truly a touching book.
- Rooney’s writing is stronger than ever. I adored Rooney’s writing in her debut but there was something more beautiful in Normal People. Rooney is my favourite author right now, especially after Normal People. Her words are like chocolate – melting off the page, and you’re trying to get every piece because it’s so good.
Being alone with her is like opening a door away from normal life and then closing it behind him.
Sally Rooney is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest living writers. Not just a ‘young writer’ but the way she uses words is just beautiful. There’s no surprise that Normal People is long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2018. Rooney has been known as a ‘new voice of a generation’, a voice for the millennial. But for me, Rooney does that but her writing and novels are timeless and they are about one universal thing: to love and to be loved. And I think that doesn’t just effect millennials, but everyone. Her novels stand the test of time and I’m not just saying that, it’s true.
I’ve wrote a lot on this blog about finding myself not liking the main character of a novel and always liking others around them. But with Connell and Marianne, I loved them both dearly. I think this is a novel where you really invest into the lives of these characters and you want to root for them. Whether that’s them on their own or root for them to be together.
There are some wonderful exploration of themes in this novel. Social class being a main one with Marianne living in a big mansion while Connell lives on a council estate and his mother cleans Marianne’s house. (Side-note: Lorraine, Connell’s mother, is one of my favourite characters. She is a HOOT. And I adored her relationship with Connell). The theme of social class bleeds itself into themes of being an outsider, of not fitting in, of not being ‘normal people’. There’s also an interesting exploration of the power of sex, especially with Marianne. It’s about growing up and figuring out who you are. It’s about one person changing your life and the consequences of that. It’s a beautiful, honest, real and authentic portrait of two young people growing up, growing apart, growing together all over again. It’s a truly remarkable read – one that I think will stand the test of time. A novel that observes the human condition, about relationships and more. This is a very special novel; I hope it does will in the Man Booker Prize and everyone falls in love with this novel as much as me. I’m also excited to see the BBC Three adaption of Normal People next year which Sally Rooney wrote the screenplay too! I can’t wait to read what Sally Rooney writes next.
She has never believed herself fit to be loved by any person. But now she has a new life, of which this is the first moment, and even after many years have passed she will still think: Yes, that was it, the beginning of my life.
This is a book that I can’t wait to re-read on a cold Autumn evening and get lost in the lives of Connell and Marianne. These characters are going to stay with me for a very very long time.
You can read my review of Conversations With Friends here. Have you read Normal People yet? What did you think? Are you a fan of Sally Rooney? Also: I’ve read two books long listed for the Man Booker Prize (this and The Water Cure). What else should I read on the list? Are you excited to see what Sally Rooney writes next? Who would play Connell and Marianne in the adaption? Let me know in the comments!