BOOK REVIEW: Normal People by Sally Rooney

My synopsis: Marianne and Connell move in different circles but found unexpected camaraderie when they are repeatedly thrown in each other’s space, finding more than enough common ground without the prying and judgmental eyes of society. Sally Rooney’s thought-provoking novel is a study of people’s hidden sensibilities and the opposing but equally strong desires to conform and to stand out.

First Published August 28, 2018 (Faber & Faber)

Genre: contemporary fiction, romance, Irish Literature

Themes: soulmates, Ireland, high school, college, education, parenting, abuse, friendships, coming-of-age, conforming, politics, literature, writing

As an Amazon Associate, I get a mini % of sales price every time you use my link to make a purchase. Thank you! ^_^

Let me preface this review by saying, I ABSOLUTELY loved the Hulu show and that is why I picked up this book. I adored Daisy Edgar-Jones’ Marianne and Paul Mescal’s Connell. The way they said each other’s name is reminiscent of a heterosexual version of Call Me By Your Name.

That said, I admittedly am not sure I would have loved the book as much as I did if I didn’t watch the show and love it first. I think the plot and the dialogues are solid enough, but the characters are not as likable on the page than they are on the screen. There were a lot of misunderstandings between these two main characters, and a lot of times they were frustrating; but at the same time, it’s hard not to admire the realistic portrayal of how miscommunications can end relationships, and also how they can begin in all the wrong ways. Marianne is somehow a mix of self-righteousness and angst, honest with a lot of things but also in a state of denial when it comes to her family’s abuse. Connell is pretentious and slightly opportunistic but also deeply caring and sweet. They are both very intellectual individuals, which was what made them so attractive to each other, especially initially. In terms of character development, you could argue either way whether this book comes out on top or not.

Their feelings were suppressed so carefully in every day life, forced into smaller and smaller spaces, until seemingly minor events took on insane and frightening significance.

If you’re looking for a plot, that is also hard to describe. This is not a book you pick up if you’re looking for a linear narrative, of twists and turns and explosive plot events. It is definitely not that. In its entirety, the novel banks on pages of character introspection and punctuation-less dialogues; the punctuation is missing, but not the feelings.

In its simplistic form of narrative, it’s easy to fly through the pages of Normal People, and even with a decidedly ambiguous ending, it delivers a satisfying conclusion to Marianne and Connell’s consistent push-and-pull dynamic.

Thanks for reading! I hope you have a lovely day/evening. If you’re in the US, I hope you had a good/relaxing Memorial Day weekend.

Have you watched The Normal People on Hulu? If so, what did you think? Have you read the book? If you’ve done both, which did you like better, and why?

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