123. Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal people by Sally Rooney is that one book that I have seen everywhere! I literally mean EVERYWHERE!

It blew up last year, and divided the book community into two; those who loved it and those who couldn’t. I had been eyeing to get my hands on this for a very long time, and since paperbacks usually take time to release I had to wait.

But life, I tell you, throws some sweet treats along with those lemons at times.

Found this sitting in the used book shop at the “Classics/Literature” section. Sandwiched between a book on Mesopotamia and the Defectors of Moscow. What an ironic setting.

I literally smiled, shook my head, left the one’s I was considering to buy, paid for only this book and went on my way.

So what is the hype all about? Let me tell you.

Normal People is a story of two people: Marianne and Connell, who meet during school and live in Caricklea, Ireland, but don’t hit it off instantly. You see, Marianne belongs to a rich family but is an outcast at school and doesn’t really care for making friends.

“No one can be independent of other people completely, so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not.”

She also has some troubling issues with self-esteem and suffers from emotional abuse at home.

“Generally I find men are a lot more concerned with limiting the freedoms of women than exercising personal freedom for themselves.”

Connell on the other hand belongs to the working class, and his mother works as a cleaning lady at Marianne home. But Connell is the popular, nice guy who everybody loves. He’s a bit self-obsessed and cares a lot for the opinion of his friends about himself.

“I think we’re at that weird age where life can change a lot from small decisions.”

So, as love stories go, they fall for each other and start hooking up. But Connell doesn’t want anyone to know about them and so their fling is a best kept secret according to him.

“Not for the first time Marianne thinks cruelty does not only hurt the victim, but the perpetrator also, and maybe more deeply and more permanently.”

Eventually an incident happens and they move apart without the usual drama of a breakup, but the emotional repercussions affecting them both.

“You learn nothing very profound about yourself simply by being bullied; but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget.”

Few months later they meet at college and the tables have turned. Marianne is the popular girl while Connell is the lad with the thick Sligo accent and a nobody. But they hook up again.

They hook up a lot. Lets just say that.

In short, this story is a lot of will they? Or will they not? Will they express love for each other? Will they be clear about their emotions?

And if you look at that way, then sure, there isn’t much to this story. It is just another angst filled teenage/early twenties story of two people who can’t seem to make of their mind.

But trust me, when I tell you, I somehow related to the characters (hello? No fatwas my way please!). With a very very different lifestyle, characters who show no signs of actually improving despite thinking they are, Rooney’s writing is infectious.

She wrote a story that has been written and re-written about in many ways, but still made it feel unique somehow. And that in my eyes is clever writing.

Sure, I got some A Little Life, The Secret History and 50 Shades vibes, but only on the surface level of things.

I actually felt for Marianne and Connell, and I wanted them to have a better ending. Their relationship is so complex and has so much history, that sometimes their judgments does get clouded on what could be right.

This story could have been so much better, if the ending was worked on a little. I didn’t like it, but I think that is how it would’ve ended anyway.

So do I love it or do I hate it. I am stuck in the middle!

Because I went into reading Normal People with polarizing reviews from both camps, and yet I can’t seem to side with one team or the other.

I loved Normal People for showing how invincible yet vulnerable we are as early adults but I didn’t like it for the way it ended, for not providing more of a backstory to the main characters lives.

I loved it for the Marxist views some characters had, but I didn’t like it for showing how little the characters thought of themselves.

But I guess there was some love from my part, seeing how I finished it one go.

If you’d like to buy a paperback, here is an affiliate link to Book Depository that you can use.

Onto the basics:

  1. Rating: 4.0/5.0
  1. Favorite quote: “… a lot of the literary people in college see books primarily as a way of appearing cultured, It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about.”
  2. Reader level: E
  3. Should you read: If you’re in your early twenties/late teens, you may end up loving it.
  4. Would I read it again: I guess I might.

Till next time,

-Sarah

 

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