Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney

Publishing Date: August 28th 2018

Publisher: Hogarth

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: 273

Rating: ⭐⭐

Book Depository| Waterstones| Wordery|

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship. 

This book has won multiple awards and was longlisted for The Man Booker Prize in 2018.  However, this was a book I just couldn’t get along with.  I know this is either a book you loved, or you hated but unfortunately, I was the latter.  Warning to those choosing to give this a shot – Trigger Warning of sexual assault, domestic violence, depression, anxiety and suicide.  If I’m completely honest I would have probably DNF’d this one, but I genuinely wanted to see if it would improve especially since it is an award-winning book.  I am left feeling and wondering why is it an award winner? I can’t see any reasons why this piece of fiction deserves such high accolades.  It obviously worked for others, but it just wasn’t a good fit for me.  It’s always hard to go against the grain with popular or hyped books but you have to be honest with yourself and this definitely fell flat for me.  I’ve spent a few days working out how I would write this review and I’ve concluded to be completely honest about my feelings towards it.  The disconnect I felt towards this story is one I haven’t felt in a long time in my reading journey but boy did this story floor me in regard to that. 

Instead of this book fitting neatly within the genre of contemporary it had the feel of a Young Adult story (in no way dissing YA, I frequently read it and enjoy it.)  Described as an exquisite love story it felt anything but that.  It told the story of Marianne and Connell through school and college.  Connell was a vain and self-serving arse who was more interested in what people thought of him rather than the harm that he was doing to those around them.  Marianne was marginally better, but she was naive and possibly lacked the social skills to cope with the situation that she was allowing to develop.  Their “relationship” (if you can honestly call it that) was an off/on, off again and on-again rollercoaster.  This was just a car crash being repeated in slow motion throughout their college years.   This was a couple that should have just stayed apart.  I personally felt they were damaging for each other and created toxic relations between them. 

Part of my problem with this book was how it was written.  It took me a good few pages to realise that the author had chosen not to use quotation marks for speech between the characters.  Quite frankly it was odd, I mean you get used to reading it that way, but it was just the why it perplexed me so much. 

The character development of the 20 – something isn’t my experience of being in college.  How many young people of that age have that level of insight or life experience that they appear to be highly intelligent, majorly cynical about life and have more than a slight insight about political issues.  When I was that age in college the students were more interested in getting drunk, getting laid and partying.  Has life changed that much?  I don’t think so, but I might be wrong.  Both the primary and secondary characters just read as very wooden and 2D and I felt next to nothing for them and they didn’t reach out to me.  I struggled with the writing and it certainly wasn’t able to keep the story afloat.  Descriptions were badly worded and flat, and I just felt bored reading it, for example – ‘It’s true she is Connell’s type, maybe even the originary model of the type:’ What the hell does that even mean? I’ve probably missed the whole point of the book but for me it was all about “I love you, let’s have sex, I can’t tell anyone about this, lets break up, let’s get back together” times infinity is basically what the entire book is about.  It was repetitive and boring.  I just don’t get it.  I’m not going to bother reading Sally Rooney’s other works because I doubt I would get along with them either so its best I just steer clear.  This was an overwhelmingly disappointing read and I’m not sure I have ever rolled my eyes so much whilst reading a book.

2 thoughts on “Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

  1. I’ve read so many mixed reviews about this book! The speech mark thing comes up time and time again, I wonder why she would write it like that? I have to be honest, I’m intrigued to see whether I would like this book or not so think I’ll read it at some point but probably get it from the library haha! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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