Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney is a book that is actually difficult to review. It is understandable how this literary fiction set in Ireland is generating a lot of buzz. The story is beautifully written and explores many interesting themes, however, the plot moves very slowly and the characters are hard to connect with.

Book Review: Normal People by Sally RooneyAuthor: Sally Rooney
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Publication Date: April 16, 2019

three-half-stars
Summary (from Goodreads):

Connell Waldron is one of the most popular boys in his small-town high school--he is a star of the football team and an excellent student, and he is never wanting for attention from girls. The one thing he doesn't have is money. Marianne Sheridan, a classmate of Connell's, has the opposite problem. Marianne is plain-looking, odd, and stubborn, and while her family is quite well off, she has no friends to speak of. There is, however, a deep and undeniable connection between the two teenagers, one that develops into a secret relationship.

Everything changes when both Connell and Marianne are accepted to Trinity College. Suddenly Marianne is well liked and elegant, holding court with her intellectual friends, while Connell hangs at the sidelines, not quite as fluent in the language of the elite. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle each other, falling in and out of romance but never straying far from where they started. And as Marianne experiments with an increasingly dangerous string of boyfriends, Connell must decide how far he is willing to go to save his oldest friend.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a novel that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the inescapable challenges of family and friendships. Normal People is a book that you will read in one sitting, and then immediately jump up to share with your friends.

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❃ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. ❃

Book Review: Normal People

I have heard so many great things about Normal People. Some have even described Rooney’s work as “Salinger for millennials.” It is definitely a novel that will make you think and become more aware.

❀ Gorgeous Setting

The aspects of the story that are most enjoyable to read about are the setting and the purposeful writing. There aren’t many books that I have read set in Ireland, and it is such a gorgeous backdrop to the book. Rooney’s descriptions aren’t necessarily flowery, but more to the point and accurate. Despite this, the plot does tend to drag on quite a bit.

Rooney’s Normal People is set in 2011-2015, and I had to keep reminding myself of this while reading because it just doesn’t seem to have a contemporary feel to it. It also examines the themes of class and coming of age, which makes the novel comparable to Salinger. Also, at the heart of the novel is the question of what makes us normal. This exploration is quite interesting and will have readers asking themselves what it truly means.

❀ Quirky and Flawed Characters

Marianne and Connell are main characters that are both quirky and flawed. In fact, they are polar opposites who start off as secret lovers in high school. Their paths cross again when they both attend the same college, which creates an interesting dynamic between them. Although the characters are interesting and well-developed, I wasn’t able to connect with either of them.

Normal People is a work of literary fiction that is making a lot of buzz. It definitely contains lots of merit, and the writing is fantastic. However, the slow moving plot and the characters that are not easy to relate to make it hard to completely enjoy. For those who appreciate this genre, it is sure to be one to watch for.

About Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from Trinity College. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Dublin Review, The White Review, The Stinging Fly, and the Winter Pages anthology.

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