Author: Sally Rooney
Published by: Faber & Faber
My Rating ★★★★★
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 heart-breaking 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 that breathes fiction with new life.
I finished Normal People last night but had to think about it for a little while before writing this review, which is unusual for me. The book left a deep impression on me, and I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it.
Normal People is about Marianne and Connell, their secret friendship, and their on and off again relationship. Connell is the popular jock who secretly cares what everyone thinks about him. Marianne is the school pariah–the girl who people create myths about. While they both feel alone and misunderstood, together they understand not only one another, but also themselves.
They are two young people drawn to each other who drift apart at times, but always end up coming back to each other throughout their lives. Marianne and Connell do well communicating in bed, but not elsewhere. At times I wanted to shake both characters to make them say the things they wanted to, to each other and other people in their lives. The book is an intimate, but sometimes painful, look at two people from different backgrounds that don’t really belong together.
It is a fantastic and absorbing read. It’s not a romance or love story, but more of an in-depth character driven study. It’s more about obsession and the two flawed high school students that follow each other to College.
The narrative is told through the inner workings of Connell and Marianne’s minds. I loved how the reader is allowed full access into their issues and disturbing thoughts, getting to know both Connell and Marianne intimately and truthfully. Misunderstandings from poor communication between the two make this novel what it is - tragic and full of sadness. They are awkward and flawed characters, which made them feel very real.
Normal People is unfiltered, emotional and intriguing. Throughout the book’s emotional turmoil, Rooney’s writing is exceptional. There were many parts that I went back to read over and over again, simply blown away by the author’s beautiful use of language and imagery. Plus, the ending of the book is great. Rooney wraps up her novel in the most perfect way. It really fits with the entire tone of the novel.
It’s really an insightful and quiet book that captures the realities of two damaged people navigating the intricacies of a relationship. They are drawn to each other in a way neither can explain. Throughout the years they forge a friendship, then a relationship of sorts, feeling the push and pull, which always remains the same. Neither satisfied, or ever getting what they want, yet both inexplicably drawn to the other.
Normal People is a wonderful coming of age story. It is a book about a relationship that is so real and authentic that I sometimes forgot these weren’t actual friends of mine. To say it struck a chord with me would be an understatement.