Thursday, 31 January 2019

Normal People by Sally Rooney

‘It’s different for men, she says.
Yeah, I’m starting to get that.’

Normal People is an insightful and fresh novel about a poignant relationship set over a period of four years; featuring a young couple who seemingly can't live with or without each other.

As teenagers Marianne and Connell meet because Connell's mother cleans Marianne's family's large house in Western Ireland. Marianne is an intelligent loner, while Connell is bright and popular, but from a 'bad' family.  They keep their relationship a secret at Connell's request, before it all goes horribly wrong.

The couple keep meeting over the years, firstly at University where their roles are reversed; as Connell struggles to fit in and make friends due to his impoverished background, while Marianne emerges swan-like as an attractive and popular scholar. They have relationships with a series of ‘normal people’, a group neither Marianne nor Connell feels they belong to.

Normal People is easy-to-read and yet the two main characters are complex and I cared about what happened to them. This novel could easily have become a cutesy boy meets girl/loses girl/wins girl back story; but Sally Rooney is much too clever for that. Mariane has to overcome the darkness of her brother’s violent bullying, exploitation on the internet, and her own masochistic tendencies; whilst Connell has struggles with depression.

Normal People
was longlisted for the Man Booker prize and at 28 years old Sally Rooney is the youngest ever winner of the Costa award Book of the Year. The Costa award honours English language books of writers based in Britain and Ireland. The Costa Award Judges said: “A trailblazing novel about modern life and love that will electrify any reader.”

Normal People is a sharp social commentary of contemporary times and Sally Rooney is currently writing the screenplay for the BBC television adaptation.

Reviewed by Katrina 

Catalogue link:  Normal People

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