Sally Rooney’s second novel has been around for little less than two years and, in that short time, has managed (among others) to be hailed by public and critics alike, get longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018, be voted Waterstone’s Book of the Year and win the Costa Book Awards Best Novel for 2018, get longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 and be ranked 25th on The Guardian’s list of the 100 best books of the 21st century. In 2019 BBC announced its plans to adapt the book for TV, with the series premiering a few days ago on BBC3. In the midst of all the hype, I somehow only heard about it a couple of months ago – from long- time favorite blogger and fellow bibliophile Anna Newton (of ‘The Anna Edit‘).
It’s now been a few weeks since I finished the book and, for some reason, I have found getting around to reviewing it to be very difficult contrary, in fact, to what reading it felt like (in few words: I could not put it down and devoured it in little more than one seating). It got so bad that I had to publish an Instagram story announcing this post – just to make sure I would finally sit down and share my thoughts… So, here goes:
I guess ‘Normal People’ would be best described as a coming of age story, documenting the journey of its characters (Connell and Marianne) from adolescence to early adulthood and offering us an unfiltered, intimate and emotional look into the lives of two people who may love each other but don’t “belong” together. Through a superb use of language and imagery Ms. Rooney weaves the story, cultivating a deep connection to her characters while dealing with (often sensitive) issues such as social class and conflict, abuse, depression and suicidal ideation.
‘Normal People’ seems to be quite polarizing, evoking disparate emotions and responses to different people. I, for one, have to admit I loved it! I loved the fresh & minimalist narrative, I loved the flawed and awkward characters (which felt real and compelling and whose thoughts & trials I found I actually cared about) and I loved the way the author portrayed human relationships in all their complexity (nerve-rackingly illustrating our interconnectedness, the impact seperate lives have on each other and the effect our failure to effectively communicate may have on our individual realities and happiness). The supporting cast felt more than adequate and to be honest, even when situations and side characters felt like they needed a bit more fleshing out (i.e. Marianne’s family and brother storyline) that simply did not seem important enough to spoil the overall experience for me.
All in all, I may not have ranked this book as high (or at all) in my ‘100 best books of the 21st century’ list, but I have certainly enjoyed it and it has planted Sally Rooney firmly on my radar as a highly talented, young author to follow. Until she comes out with a new book, I’ll keep myself occupied with her first novel ‘Conversations with Friends’ (already on my Kindle TBR queue), in the hope of it proving to be as great as this one.
Hardcover: 266 pages
Publisher: Faber & Faber (28 August 2018)
Buy in English here
Buy in Greek – not yet available
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