Normal People by Sally Rooney
Published by Faber & Faber, 2018
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Normal People is a quiet powerhouse of a novel. Shrewdly observant, to the point of feeling almost voyeuristic, we follow Connell and Marianne as they attempt to navigate the complexities of life, and to make sense of their feelings for one another.
Rooney captures the angst of young love in a way that avoids all the pitfalls of a typical romance novel. Indeed, to class this as a romance would feel somehow dismissive of how fully it encapsulates the human experience. Never have I seen an author so successfully reflect the frustration and anxiety of over-analysing everything someone says and does; the paranoia of wanting to be wanted.
As circumstances repeatedly push Connell and Marianne to and from each another, the novel examines various forms of miscommunication, and the notion of wasted opportunities. Chief amongst these is the failure to understand our own feelings, let alone how to articulate them to those around us. Through her characters’ interactions, Rooney also explores the idea that the ones we love are the ones we hurt the most; the unique brand of power that comes with mutual affection, and the need for affirmation to combat our own self-loathing. The reality of modern-day class divides, and the bewilderment of trying to move between social circles, is also handled with aplomb.
Reading this was almost painful at times, so many of my own experiences looking back at me from the page. As such, I felt hugely invested in the characters, utterly convinced by their authenticity. And whilst it would be easy for some to dismiss Rooney’s prose as simplistic, there’s an honesty and a perceptiveness to her work that belies its readability.
This is one of those books that I loved so much, it’s difficult to talk about without resorting to rudimentary gushing. I simply want to urge as many people as possible to experience it for themselves. If Sally Rooney truly is the author-of-the-moment, long may she reign.
You can pick up a copy of Normal People from Book Depository by clicking here. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!