Normal People by Sally Rooney

J. L. Harland • April 26th, 2020

This highly acclaimed novel tells the story of Connell and Marianne whose lives are interwoven by mutual attraction. Normal People won the Costa Novel of the Year (2019) as well as numerous other awards. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize (2018) and is being televised by the BBC in April 2020.

At first it seems that Connell and Marianne have little in common except that they are both teenagers who live in the same town and go to the same school. They belong to different socioeconomic groups and Connell is attractive and popular while Marianne is regarded as a bit weird by her peers. However, they are both highly intelligent and, almost by mistake, find themselves attracted to one another. They start a love affair.

The novel charts the complexity of their relationship as they move through their lives over the next four years, leaving home to go to Trinity College, Dublin. Here, the tables are turned, and Marianne becomes the popular one, while Connell feels out of place.

The interesting thing about this book, which has been hailed as a modern love story, is how the characters are drawn to one another regardless of other people in their lives. The prose switches from present to past tense almost without intent, making experiences more poignant at times.

There seems to be something dysfunctional in Marianne’s family and the reader has the impression that Connell almost feels responsible for her well-being. He is a complicated character, intelligent, sensitive at times and aware of his feelings. Their relationship, it appears, will always be a part of their lives. It would be interesting to see these characters again ten or twenty years on.

Published by Faber & Faber this is the second novel by Sally Rooney. Buy now from your local bookshop.

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