«Normal People» by Sally Rooney is not an easy book to review. I’m still not entirely sure if I liked it or not.
Does it really deserve the 5-star rating I’ve given it immediately after turning the last page? I can’t answer this question yet.
There are books that instantly become our favorites, and there are books that will stay with us for a very long time, the little plot details engraved in our memory. Even though you won’t be reaching to re-read those books any time soon (or ever). That’s how I felt about «Memoirs of Geisha» that was an extraordinary reading experience and one of the first adult books I’ve ever read, and that’s also how I feel about «Normal People» by Sally Rooney.
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.
This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.
This Irish author came to the literary scene with her debut novel «Conversations with Friends» in 2017, followed by «Normal People» in 2018. Her writing style is very peculiar, her novels received some harsh critique and were called “a meaningless collection of words”. But also became bestsellers, won awards and were featured on countless Instagram accounts of many celebrities and influences.
In fact, BBC is currently filming its 12 episodes adaptation of «Normal People», and I already know that it will break even more hearts once this min TV show is out.
WHAT I LIKED:
1 – «Normal People» by Sally Rooney is probably the saddest, most-disturbing and an emotional book I’ve read in a long time. If you go into this book expecting a light summer read, you’ll be very shocked by how raw and real the story feels. The book is only a little above 250 pages long, but it took me a couple of days to finish it because I couldn’t read more than 30-50 pages at a time.
Slightly depressing, «Normal People» felt like a plunge in the darkest depth of human emotion.
2 – Sally Rooney is a master of characterization. This book is essentially a character study. It focuses on the relationship between Connell and Marianne, and on their individual development. Both of them felt unbelievably real, to the point of “raw realness” where the author wasn’t afraid to cover up the ugliness of life.
3 – This book isn’t for everyone. And I can see why people wouldn’t like it. It’s depressive, sad and made me shiver more than once while reading about what these characters went through or how they dealt with it. But somehow I still liked it? sort of? I can’t explain my attachment to Marianne’s and Connell’s destructive relationship. I wanted to yell at them and set them on the “right” path, but who am I to say what is right for them?
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
1 – The only somewhat negative thing I need to mention is the use of punctuation, or better, the lack of it when it comes to dialogues. At first, I wasn’t sure where the new line started and who was saying what, but after 20ish pages, I got used to it and didn’t have any issues with the punctuation for the rest of the book.
Not sure why the author thought it was a good idea to not distinguish the dialogs from the rest of the text. Maybe the idea was to add a seamless flow to the story, but instead, it added this distraction element that you needed to get used to stopping noticing it entirely.