Book Review: Normal People

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Connell and Marianne both grow up in the same town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. But they both get places to study at university in Dublin, and a connection that has grown between them despite the social tangle of school lasts long into the following years.

Sally Rooney’s second novel is a deeply political novel, just as it’s also a novel about love. It’s about how difficult it is to speak to what you feel and how difficult it is to change. It’s wry and seductive; perceptive and bold. It will make you cry and you will know yourself through it

I wanted to like this book so much, but I just didn’t. I like what the author was trying to do, but it did not work for me at all. I get that she was exploring what “normal” is, how our lives are influenced by those around us, how we influence them, learning about who we are and want to be as we grow up, etc, but I found that I simply didn’t care enough about the characters, their popularity, or their sex lives to enjoy the book.
This book follows two characters, Marianne and Connell, from their high school years in a small town in Ireland to through their university years in Dublin. They have an on-again-off-again relationship that is strange in and of itself. They both have self esteem issues and worry about fitting in and are trying to figure out where they are comfortable in the world. However, their challenges, especially Marianne’s and her families, are not very nuanced and most of the characters are two dimensional. I found the leaps we had to take with the characters as readers to be too much. Suddenly, the socially shunned ugly girl is popular and beautiful, the jock is an outcast, etc.
I get that this is a time of life that is confusing and full of changes and that the author is exploring this, but this book just didn’t do it for me.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Share this: