I was recently asked by a colleague if I had read Normal People and my response was to put my hand on my heart, make a face and just say ‘awwww Normal People.’ In my defense, his response was the exact same. Sally Rooney’s latest offering just has that effect on people. The next comment that is made is always ‘she was robbed not to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize’ and I couldn’t agree more.
I have not read Sally Rooney’s debut novel Conversations With Friends but I had heard everyone talking about it when it came out. That word of mouth buzz was multiplied by a thousand when it came to Normal People. Suddenly I was getting asked by friends, strangers and flatmates alike: have you read it? You must read it! I buckled under the peer pressure, especially because it was such an eclectic mix of people who were recommending it and I needed to find out what sort of book was getting this many people all riled up. I was not disappointed and now I’ve joined the masses of people saying ‘have you read this book? You must read it!’
Normal People is the story of Connell and Marianne. It is the story of their relationship growing up, their hook-up in high school, their friendship, how they drift apart, and how they keep ending up back together. It is a beautiful story of an on-and-off-again relationship and how that changes over the years.
I love the title Normal People because that is exactly what this book is about. Just two very ordinary, normal people who make mistakes, make up, break up, date other people, date each other and somehow stay friends through it all. It could have been about that guy at university, a colleague, or even me. For me, it felt like two old friends who I was rooting for from the sidelines, hoping that they would get together but knowing that if I tried to meddle in any way I would ruin it. Connell and Marianne are the Ross and Rachel, the JD and Elliot, and the Meredith and McDreamy. I wanted them to get together but not too quickly, as I also loved their story when they were apart.
Rooney writes her characters so realistically and so deliciously flawed. My favorite parts of this book were where I got to see an argument that they had from both sides. The story is told in third person, with one chapter focusing on Connell and one on Marianne. It is incredibly well done and allowed me, as the reader, to understand each argument from both their points of view. One word misplaced causes Marianne to misinterpret the situation. A hint untaken leaves Connell alone for a few more months. It’s genius and also so genuine that this is the reason talking about this book makes me put my hand on my heart and make that awkward ‘I love this book so much’ face.
This is an incredibly short book and, if I’m honest, nothing much happens. But Rooney’s writing is so well crafted, sparse, and beautiful that I was compelled to keep reading. It is also incredibly sexy. She really gets this relationship and these characters. They’re so real. Their happiness was my happiness and their pain became mine until I was so wrapped up in the story that I missed my bus, I walked and read, and I tried to find any moment to spend more time with Connell and Marianne.
This book should come with an addiction warning as well as a ‘will make you feel all the feels’ sticker. Dear review reader, get a copy for yourself and then spread ‘round the joy. This is a book that deserves the hype and needs to be read.