Normal People
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.

Normal People Details

TitleNormal People
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 16th, 2019
PublisherHogarth
ISBN-139781984822178
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Cultural, Ireland

Normal People Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    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. This is going to be a polarizing book. I mean, I think I liked it. And I say "liked it" in the sense that it made me very miserable. It is a quiet character study, almost a YA novel but not quite, and it is a profoundly lonely and depressing love story.I didn't begin by liking it. Normal Peopl 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. This is going to be a polarizing book. I mean, I think I liked it. And I say "liked it" in the sense that it made me very miserable. It is a quiet character study, almost a YA novel but not quite, and it is a profoundly lonely and depressing love story.I didn't begin by liking it. Normal People follows two characters - Marianne and Connell - through adolescence and into early adulthood, and they begin by being the kind of uber-precocious teenagers who read Proust and Marx for fun. It took a while for me to settle into their story. My initial impression was that this was going to be some kind of John Green for adults, which is not something that floats my particular boat.Without fully realizing it though, this book had crept quietly under my skin. The relationship between Marianne and Connell is angsty, sure, but it felt painfully real. They are so flawed, marred by unlikable characteristics, and yet, I could not stop caring about them. 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. You learn nothing very profound about yourself simply by being bullied; but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget. The story is really just about the two of them and their relationship. In high school, Marianne is a smart and wealthy girl, but is socially ostracized and emotionally abused at home, whereas Connell is working class, but very popular. Connell's mum works as a cleaner for Marianne's family. They begin a secret sexual relationship that falls apart when Connell fears his friends will find out. The compelling dynamic between them drives the story-- issues of class and social status cause much conflict.In college, the two meet again. This time, Marianne is popular, and Connell is feeling increasingly depressed. The two of them lean on each other time and again as they move through a social world filled with social expectations. There's a bit of a When Harry Met Sally vibe, except that this book is more soul-destroying. Nothing had meant more to Rob than the approval of others; to be thought well of, to be a person of status. He would have betrayed any confidence, any kindness, for the promise of social acceptance. There's clear criticism of our constant need to impress and perform for others in a world that grows ever more connected. Much of the tragedy that befalls Marianne and Connell is caused by other people, peer pressure and social expectations. It is very sad to think that someone might give up who they love the most because they can't deal with how it makes them look to others.The pair's inability to adequately communicate is frustrating but feels realistic. I was on the verge of tearing my hair out at all the things left unsaid in this book, but I think it was a good kind of frustration. The kind that comes from caring too much. I feel like there are any number of reasons I could have hated Normal People, but I didn’t. I actually kinda loved it. It's a weird, awkward, depressing novel about a connection formed between two very different people who find exactly what they need - and perhaps a lot that they don't - in each other. CW: sexual assault; domestic abuse; drug use; casual racism (called out); depression; anxiety; suicide & suicidal ideation.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    Sally Rooney is the real dealNormal People has been lavished with praise from critics, longlisted for the Man Booker prize and is apparently being adapted for television by the BBC. And it only came out last week! All that attention will no doubt attract quite a few readers who would not ordinarily touch this subject matter with a barge pole. Because this book:A) Is about young peopleB) Is a love story (but not a 'romance')C) Contains a fair bit of sex (which is crucial to the story, btw, and is Sally Rooney is the real dealNormal People has been lavished with praise from critics, longlisted for the Man Booker prize and is apparently being adapted for television by the BBC. And it only came out last week! All that attention will no doubt attract quite a few readers who would not ordinarily touch this subject matter with a barge pole. Because this book:A) Is about young peopleB) Is a love story (but not a 'romance')C) Contains a fair bit of sex (which is crucial to the story, btw, and is not graphic)All of which (possibly also the fact that the author is a 27-year-old woman) mean that Normal People will inevitably be dismissed by some as frivolous. It isn’t. This is a confident, accomplished and serious work. Of Rooney’s debut, Conversations with Friends, I said in my review it ‘occasionally scrapes close to the bone’. Well, Normal People cuts to the core.Normal People is not out to inspire, instruct, entertain or talk down to anyone, which makes it something of a refreshing anomaly in current fiction about young people. It is a novel (for anyone, young or old) that simply presents the truth of youthful experiences without the filters of nostalgia or sentimentality. It invites you to inhabit the psyche of someone else – two someone elses: Connell and Marianne – to identify with them and to feel their pain and turmoil. For the reader who connects to that, it is wracking. The story focuses only on the pivotal moments for these two characters, jumping forward three weeks, six months, or five minutes, as needed, to excise all the uneventful bits of life and leave us with the most emotionally intense supercut possible. It follows them from high school in a small town, through their years at university in Dublin, as the dynamic between them shifts with their surroundings and social circle. They’re not officially 'together' the whole time, or even most of the time, but they always figure in each other’s lives in a significant way.Sally Rooney writes with such precision that this all feels painfully true. She conjures the tension and emotion in a scene just from the way someone wrings out a dish sponge; she conveys the full weight of feeling from a look or a shrug. In Rooney’s imagining, Connell and Marianne as separate entities are less important than the interplay between them – their relationship dynamic and the influence each of them has on shaping the other, that’s the real stuff of this book: "How strange to feel herself so completely under the control of another person, but also how ordinary. 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." There’s irony here, and self-conscious posturing (not nearly as much as in CWF), but earnestness, truth and kindness as well. In addition to the central relationship are issues of class and intellectual integrity. It's a particularly astute look at the rebuild of self that teenagers undergo in the transition from school to uni, how it allows some to thrive while others stumble, and in some ways is just an illusion after all. So there’s hype and there’s backlash to the hype, and Normal People is sure to resonate powerfully with some readers and not at all for others. If you like a minutely observed novel about people and feelings that isn’t mawkish, I'd say give it a go.
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  • Portal in the Pages
    January 1, 1970
    Goddamit Sally Rooney and now I'm crying.
  • Dem
    January 1, 1970
    Man booker prize long list nominee and Costa book awards nominee This is a book that has many admirers and sadly it didn't work for me and while I would love to agree with all the judges on this one I only struggled to the end because it was a bookclub read. It is difficult to go against the grain on a book that is nominated for so many awards. So as always you need to judge for yourself because books fit people differently Quite simply this book didn't Fit Me. I really have no interest in r Man booker prize long list nominee and Costa book awards nominee This is a book that has many admirers and sadly it didn't work for me and while I would love to agree with all the judges on this one I only struggled to the end because it was a bookclub read. It is difficult to go against the grain on a book that is nominated for so many awards. So as always you need to judge for yourself because books fit people differently Quite simply this book didn't Fit Me. I really have no interest in reading about 18-20 something year college kid's on/off sexual relationships where they seem to only exist in their own little complex bubble and this book felt like a bubble. It is described as "exquisite love stroy" which I honestly found nothing exquisite or no love in this one. The characters of Connell and Marianne were dislikable and boring and the on / off, will they wont they "relationship" became repetitive reading. The only character which I liked and felt any connection with in the novel was Lorraine.Perhaps this is more suited for a younger audience where they connect with the college scene or for readers who like complex relationship stories but for me this was a struggle from start to finish.
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  • Trudie
    January 1, 1970
    I am not sure how to write this review because I seem to be so far beyond the pale on my antipathy to this book. In simplest terms I didn't connect with this work at all and I would be best to chalk this up to a "reader/writer" mismatch and move on but I will try and articulate some of my reading experience.Some of my perplexity with Normal People is that I just couldn't relate to the twenty something, highly educated, politically aware and cynical young adults that populate this novel. I am not I am not sure how to write this review because I seem to be so far beyond the pale on my antipathy to this book. In simplest terms I didn't connect with this work at all and I would be best to chalk this up to a "reader/writer" mismatch and move on but I will try and articulate some of my reading experience.Some of my perplexity with Normal People is that I just couldn't relate to the twenty something, highly educated, politically aware and cynical young adults that populate this novel. I am not sure how reflective these voices are of young Irish making their way in the world, but as presented here I found them exasperating to listen to and not particularly nuanced. It is possible that even if I didn't enjoy the novel I might like the writing but in actual fact Rooney's style is perhaps the single biggest thing that bugged me. I found some passages of interest sandwiched between a lot of wooden dialogue and these flat descriptions ... Marianne goes inside and comes back out again with another bottle of sparkling wine, and one bottle of red. Niall starts unwrapping the wire on the first bottle and Marianne hands Connell a corkscrew. Peggy starts clearing people's plates. Connell unpeels the foil from the top of a bottle as Jamie leans over and says something to Marianne. He sinks the screw into the cork and twists it downwards. Peggy takes his plate away and stacks it with the others This kind of writing really gives me nothing. Others have cited the two dimensional nature of her secondary characters and I would concur. Barely any of them made much of an impression on me. Alan - Marianne's brother, seemed particularly badly drawn. He appears to be a key part of understanding Marianne and yet he warrants only a few pen-strokes of unexplained malice and cruelty. The opening of a wine-bottle and pouring of cups of tea receives much more page space. I tried to understand Marianne, who seems to be both ugly and beautiful, popular and friendless. Her hinted at troubled family life was suppose to underpin her need to be a submissive. I remain unconvinced that this is really how dominance and submission works and I would think experts in BDSM might strongly take issue with some of the cliches here. The relationship between Marianne and Connell should have kept this book afloat at the very least. The intense emotional and physical connection, the will they / won't they stay together, all the drama of YA love is here but it is in an eye-wateringly navel-gazing form. I found it all exactingly po-faced. The number of inexplicable break-ups, largely based on mis-communication was about three or four break-ups too many for me. I just wanted to yell at this novel most of the time. Say what you mean and stop being so insufferably difficult !, either split up or stay together, both your friends and I really don't care !. Marianne and Connell were of most interest to me when they started emailing each other, discussing novels and politics thus preventing them breaking up over some new emotional minutiae. Perhaps this should have been a novel of their email exchanges.Oh well, I guess I will never be a Rooney fan and I have doubtless missed the point of this book entirely but that is ok not every book is for every reader.
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  • Bernard O'Keeffe
    January 1, 1970
    On the second page of Sally Rooney’s universally acclaimed, Booker- longlisted novel is the following paragraph:‘He puts his hands in his pockets and suppresses an irritable sigh, but suppresses it with an audible intake of breath, so that it still sounds like a sigh.’What?I get the hand in the pockets bit, but how the hell does the rest of it work? A sigh is an exhalation and I have no idea how any attempt to suppress a sigh by inhaling could possibly sound like one. I’ve tried hard to imagine On the second page of Sally Rooney’s universally acclaimed, Booker- longlisted novel is the following paragraph:‘He puts his hands in his pockets and suppresses an irritable sigh, but suppresses it with an audible intake of breath, so that it still sounds like a sigh.’What?I get the hand in the pockets bit, but how the hell does the rest of it work? A sigh is an exhalation and I have no idea how any attempt to suppress a sigh by inhaling could possibly sound like one. I’ve tried hard to imagine it, but no luck. I’ve tried even harder to do it, but even less luck. In fact, in an effort to understand this twaddle I have tried it so often that I have come close on several occasions to hyperventilating and passing out.What have those Faber editors been doing? Maybe they have no problem with it because they are all so much cleverer than me and know how to read properly. Or maybe they also tried to do it and actually did pass out, which might explain why they have failed to apply the editorial pencil with any intelligence in the 264 pages that follow.The more likely explanation, of course, is that the problem is mine – and I offer the following gems from Normal People on that understanding… • ‘He looks down into his lap, and exhales quickly, almost like a cough’.It’s hyperventilation time again. I’ve imagined it and I’ve tried it, but I still don’t get it. • ‘He can’t even visually imagine himself as a lawyer, wearing a tie and so on..’Do we really need that ‘visually’? • ‘It’s true she is Connell’s type, maybe even the originary model of the type:’Originary? What does that mean? Am I the only one who had to look it up? (It’s not in Chambers, by the way, so you’ll need the OED) • ‘Peggy, watching, took a performatively large mouthful of Cointreau…’Can anyone explain what ‘performatively large’ actually means?• ‘Enraged now, Alan wrenched her back from the sink by her upper arm, and, seemingly spontaneously, spat at her.’Seemingly spontaneously? I could go on. It’s not often that I feel the need to read with a pencil in my hand but Normal People drove me to it, and my copy is now covered with question marks and annotations. I retired from teaching last year but reading Sally Rooney’s feted novel felt like I was marking again - in this case marking the work of a precocious, but overindulged, talent.In 'Normal People' alternating points of view are combined with an inconsistent and confusing authorial presence, voices are often difficult to differentiate in an ineffectual free indirect style, the comma splices (Ferrante this isn’t) and the unpunctuated dialogue, far from creating an impressionistic flow, suggest a lack of precision, and the prose shifts from past to present for no apparent reason and even within paragraphs, creating a chronological blur. In short, it's a bit of a mess. If I cared about the characters or cared about the story, these things would not matter quite so much but on the few occasions when I saw through the writerly mess I found it difficult to care about them at all.The novel, though, has been so well received that its very reception has become a news story. ‘Salinger for the Snapchat generation’: critics unite to praise 27 year-old novelist’ was the headline in last Saturday’s Guardian.So the problem is clearly mine. Maybe I've read a different book from the one everyone is raving about. Maybe I've read the same book but don't know how to read properly. Or it could be that I'm the child's voice at the back of the crowd politely suggesting that the emperor might not be wearing any clothes.
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  • jessica
    January 1, 1970
    wow. one of the most frustrating, but humanising, books i have read in a long time. for sure. i feel so exhausted after reading this, but i think that may have been the authors intent. its shows that normal people living normal lives can be quite tiresome. for example:- the writing lacks quotation marks, which makes the dialogue difficult to decipher. which could be seen as support for the idea that life is just as messy as the books formatting and communication sometimes takes effort to underst wow. one of the most frustrating, but humanising, books i have read in a long time. for sure. i feel so exhausted after reading this, but i think that may have been the authors intent. its shows that normal people living normal lives can be quite tiresome. for example:- the writing lacks quotation marks, which makes the dialogue difficult to decipher. which could be seen as support for the idea that life is just as messy as the books formatting and communication sometimes takes effort to understand. - there are massive jumps in the timeline with a lot of backtracking, so much so that the drastic shifts are jarring. which could be seen as exemplifying the notion that people change over time and friendships are bound to alter.things like this will polarise readers. either its too much and unenjoyable, or its a work of genius and adds depth to the storytelling. i think it really depends on the readers interpretation and mood. and like the indecisive creature that i am, im quite torn down the middle. ↠ 3.5 stars
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  • Peter Boyle
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted to like this book more than I did. How thrilling that the author hailed as "Salinger for the Snapchat generation" is Irish, and from my own province of Connacht at that. There are moments in this novel that would certainly back up such a bold claim. But I believe that she is a writer still honing her craft. Not quite the finished article just yet, but with all the potential to become a literary heavyweight.In the beginning we meet Connell and Marianne, two young people growing up the we I wanted to like this book more than I did. How thrilling that the author hailed as "Salinger for the Snapchat generation" is Irish, and from my own province of Connacht at that. There are moments in this novel that would certainly back up such a bold claim. But I believe that she is a writer still honing her craft. Not quite the finished article just yet, but with all the potential to become a literary heavyweight.In the beginning we meet Connell and Marianne, two young people growing up the west of Ireland. Marianne comes from a wealthy family and Connell's mother Lorraine is a cleaner in their lavish house. At the start of the book, the pair are in their final year at school - Connell is a popular sports star while Marianne is a social outcast. They are close despite operating in completely different circles. Roles are reversed once they move to Dublin for college - Marianne falls in with a group who appreciate her wit and intelligence, and a taciturn Connell finds it difficult to make friends. The story follows their on-off relationship over the years - they go from being pals, to more than that, to who knows? They are a huge part of one another's lives, no matter what their romantic status.Rooney is strong on the intricacies of relationships - how the influence of one person can shape another person's whole life, and how little misunderstandings can snowball into major heartbreak. At one point Connell discovers that becoming part of a couple can even validate one's existence: "To be known as her boyfriend plants him firmly in the social world, establishes him as an acceptable person, someone with a particular status, someone whose conversational silences are thoughtful rather than socially awkward." She is also extremely perceptive about the journey from adolescence into adulthood, that point in your life where you fly the nest to take on the world and finally meet people with the same interests as yours - confident, excited and apprehensive all at once: "They were coming into college every day to have heated debates about books they had not read."However, there were a couple of things that bugged me. For one, Marianne's family despise her, yet we are given no reason for this. The actions of her brother Alan, in particular, become more ridiculous as the story goes on, and without proper context they just feel ludicrous. And I'm afraid I found the dialogue quite flat at times. For two people like Marianne and Connell, who know each other so well, I kept thinking, is this how they would really speak to each other? Their exchanges are so earnest and dry. For example, there's one part where they are about to have sex after missing one other for so long, and the atmosphere is charged. They kiss. Marianne says that she wants this so much, and Connell goes: "It's really nice to hear you say that. I'm going to switch the TV off, if that's OK." The description of the scene makes it sound passionate but the conversation dulls its effect.Maybe I'm nitpicking. There were many aspects of the book I really admired. It's just that when I see publications like The Guardian declaring Normal People a "future classic", I expect a bit more from it. I do think that Sally Rooney is massively talented, and her gifts of observation and empathy will serve her very well in her career. She may have the literary world at her feet right now, but I reckon her best work is yet to come.
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  • Larry H
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars.Sally Rooney's upcoming novel Normal People almost felt like a puzzle, in that you didn't really know what you were truly getting until all of the pieces came together. Beautifully written although a little slow in its pacing, it's a novel full of deep emotions, which made it difficult to read at times.Connell and Marianne know each other from high school, although they pretend not to, plus his mother works as a cleaner for her family. Marianne is a bit of a laughing stock in school, 3.5 stars.Sally Rooney's upcoming novel Normal People almost felt like a puzzle, in that you didn't really know what you were truly getting until all of the pieces came together. Beautifully written although a little slow in its pacing, it's a novel full of deep emotions, which made it difficult to read at times.Connell and Marianne know each other from high school, although they pretend not to, plus his mother works as a cleaner for her family. Marianne is a bit of a laughing stock in school, mainly because she doesn't care what her classmates think of her. Connell is tremendously affected by what people think of him, so when a connection starts to grow between him and Marianne, and turns to something physical and even emotional, they keep it hidden, and he ignores her in school."At times he has the sensation that he and Marianne are like figure-skaters, improvising their discussions so adeptly and in such perfect synchronisation that it surprises them both. She tosses herself gracefully into the air, and each time, without knowing how he's going to do it, he catches her."Marianne feels so intensely for Connell, and she is willing to let him possess her completely. He can't explain his feelings for Marianne, except that she thinks so highly of him, but he continues to fear what his peers would think if they knew what was going on. He winds up treating her badly, leaving her to deal with her own emotional distress.One year later, both are studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Connell feels uneasy, no longer the popular fellow he was in high school, and has difficulty relating to his peers and fitting in. Marianne, on the other hand, is comfortable in this world, enjoying deep conversations about the political and economic issues facing society, and being looked at as an object of desire, not ridicule by her fellow students. No matter what other opportunities present themselves, the pair finds themselves drawn to each other once again, enjoying the way their interactions make them feel yet falling into the same patterns which cause friction."Marianne had a wildness that got into him for a while and made him feel that he was like her, that they had the same unnameable spiritual injury, and that neither of them could ever fit into the world. But he was never damaged like she was. She just made him feel that way." Normal People follows Marianne and Connell through their time at college, through different relationships and the periodic circling back to one another, whether solely for friendship or something else. Each chapter, with a few exceptions, takes place a few months after the last one. But Marianne's penchant for self-destruction and Connell's inability to cope with the emotional stresses he faces leave them both unsure what their relationship should be and could be, if anything.Marianne's feeling she is unworthy of being loved without abuse or mistreatment, and the way she is treated by her family, boyfriends, and others, is very difficult to read about at times. Connell's bouts with depression are also quite painful to read, so at times this book felt very heavy, and its pacing seemed to move much slower than I would have liked. And like many books which focus on relationships, at times I wanted to shake both characters to make them say the things they wanted to, to each other and other people in their lives.Despite the book's emotional turmoil, Rooney's writing is exceptional. There were so many passages beyond the two I've cited in this review that I read over and over again, marveling at her use of language and imagery. She definitely got me completely immersed in this book and these characters, even when things seemed particularly draining or moved slowly. Normal People is really affecting, and it will stick with me for a long time.NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available! See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html.
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  • Sam Quixote
    January 1, 1970
    Oooof. Alright - a disclaimer before I start. Normal People by Sally Rooney is superb. I’m gonna gush about this one (warning to those in the splash zone!) and I honestly feel that the less you know about it, the better the experience will be for you. So, to those of you who’re thinking of reading it, don’t bother with any reviews about the book - just read it. It’s a contemporary story about a boy and a girl who fall in love. That’s all you need to know. And when you’re done, come back and we c Oooof. Alright - a disclaimer before I start. Normal People by Sally Rooney is superb. I’m gonna gush about this one (warning to those in the splash zone!) and I honestly feel that the less you know about it, the better the experience will be for you. So, to those of you who’re thinking of reading it, don’t bother with any reviews about the book - just read it. It’s a contemporary story about a boy and a girl who fall in love. That’s all you need to know. And when you’re done, come back and we can hi-five each other in joy over its excellence! …Why did I begin with “Oooof”? Because I genuinely feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Repeatedly. This is such an emotionally exhausting and draining read! Sally Rooney’s created a remarkably compelling pair of characters in Marianne and Connell and I felt their love so intensely it was like I was experiencing it with them. Which makes it sound like a romance, and it has some of those elements, but if it’s anything it’s a classic Bildungsroman (just a fancy word for “coming of age” story). Marianne is the awkward loner in high school, brainy but socially isolated. Connell is the good-looking popular boy, inexplicably drawn to Marianne - star football player falls for nerdy girl. The two begin seeing each other secretly - god, it sounds sooo fucking cheesy doesn’t it? I promise you it’s anything but. From there it’s a rollercoaster of emotions as the characters grow and develop. I loved it pure and simple. Here are some critiques to anyone who didn’t enjoy the book: Marianne’s brother Alan is a laughably one-dimensional villain. There’s no plot (which is very typical of this type of story) - the story just starts and then ends. The occasional phrase feels hammy and clichéd (stuff like “so few people have what we have”). Connell is written as this genius but he does some super-dumb things - and if he is so brilliant, would he care so much what others thought of him? Also, given how unbelievably connected Connell and Marianne are on every conceivable level, the number of times they misunderstand one another seemingly purely for dramatic purposes could be seen as contrived as fuuuuck. And, though I know almost nothing about Rooney, it feels like a very autobiographical novel - most young writers tend to write about themselves to start with, after all. She’s a young Irish woman who went to Trinity College, Dublin, on a scholarship, like Marianne, and the novel ends with the characters in their mid-20s, which is the same age I suspect Rooney was when she stopped writing this (she’s now 27 years old). In that regard you could say it’s somewhat unimaginative. Listen: none of that matters. I noticed those things and I didn’t care. Because it’s so well-written, so damn compelling, so enthralling and honest and… real. If I gave this anything less than the highest possible rating, I’d be lying about how much I enjoyed this book. It’s also impressive that she didn’t shy away from writing the sex scenes given how tricky they are to write with most writers publicly embarrassing themselves. She’s such a confident and skilful writer – already, at such a young age! - that she pulls them off admirably and, yes, sensuously. If you’ve ever heard someone trying to convince someone else to start reading books, one of the points they’ll make is that you get to live lives you never would. Most books do this on a superficial level but Normal People actually achieves this viscerally. This is one of those books that effortlessly draws you into it and lets you experience the intensity of Marianne and Connell’s heart-achingly, tender, complex relationship in a totally believable way - it’s powerful stuff. Truly, I felt more and more anxious as the book went on until I was actually dreading the end - this novel turned me into a wreck! The Guardian review, which drew me to this book in the first place, mentioned something like “this is a novel for and about the Millennial generation” but it’s not really. In a literal sense the characters and author are Millennials but besides that there’s nothing about this book that makes it distinct for this specific time - it could easily be set at any point in the last 50 years and still work perfectly. I’m not really sure what the book was trying to say - if anything - but it’s left a deep impression regardless. Maybe that’s it - the whole labelling of generations is a fruitless exercise in misnomers, we’re all the same and love is a complicated, weird thing for all of us? Maybe it’s trying to define what “normal” is for this generation but isn’t that something every generation goes through? And I’m not exactly sure what conclusions Rooney comes up with could be uniquely ascribed to Millennials. I’ll leave it with this because I’m spent: Normal People isn’t just the best novel of the year, or even the best novel of the last few years, but it’s one of the best I’ve ever read in my life. Maybe I’m just a sucker for coming of age stories? W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage told a similar type of story that left me just as devastated - but in a good way (sort of). A beautiful powerhouse of quiet, extraordinarily potent sensations that indelibly captures an important part of the human experience, Normal People has made me an instant fan of Sally Rooney’s - and thank you for writing it.
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  • Britta Böhler
    January 1, 1970
    I have to admit I wasn't taken with Rooney's debut Conversations with Friends but I tried to read her second book with an open mind. The writing was good and some of the themes were interesting but I was rather bored by the selfabsorbed, cliché-characters: women who just want to 'get the man' and who always question their self-worth after a break-up, and men who are behaving as if they come straight out of a 'boys-will-be-boys'-movie. So 1950ies. And the ending is just plain cheesy. 2.5* (mainly I have to admit I wasn't taken with Rooney's debut Conversations with Friends but I tried to read her second book with an open mind. The writing was good and some of the themes were interesting but I was rather bored by the selfabsorbed, cliché-characters: women who just want to 'get the man' and who always question their self-worth after a break-up, and men who are behaving as if they come straight out of a 'boys-will-be-boys'-movie. So 1950ies. And the ending is just plain cheesy. 2.5* (mainly because the writing was good).And not much has changed after the re-read in January 2019: Nope, I still don't get the hype...
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  • JanB
    January 1, 1970
    How do two damaged people, who long for nothing more than to be “normal”, navigate the intricacies of a relationship? This book tore my heart out and stomped on it, and I mean that in the best possible way.Marianne and Connell become acquainted when his mother is the housekeeper for her family. Marianne’s family is wealthy, but she is the smart, nerdy, unattractive girl who is an outcast at school while Connell, also smart, is the popular jock. They enter into a relationship that he wants to kee How do two damaged people, who long for nothing more than to be “normal”, navigate the intricacies of a relationship? This book tore my heart out and stomped on it, and I mean that in the best possible way.Marianne and Connell become acquainted when his mother is the housekeeper for her family. Marianne’s family is wealthy, but she is the smart, nerdy, unattractive girl who is an outcast at school while Connell, also smart, is the popular jock. They enter into a relationship that he wants to keep secret. Marianne doesn’t feel as if she deserves anything more than this and so accepts these terms. The relationship has its ups and downs and neither can communicate well with the other. Circumstances occur that drive them apart but their paths cross in college and they find their positions are reversed. Marianne is now the sophisticated, popular girl while Connell’s lower socioeconomic status makes him feel unworthy. He is now the unpopular one who is the outsider.In the ensuing years, they drift in and out of each other’s lives. As the reader, we are privy to their innermost thoughts and desires, their longings and their pain. We know their sensitivities, and what makes them tick. We learn details of their backgrounds and the resulting pain and hurt. Sometimes the damage and the pain is just too deep to reveal oneself to another. It’s better to bury it and deny it, to pretend to not care as a defense mechanism. The truth is they care very much, but they don’t feel deserving of love and kindness. Such a person often turns to unhealthy ways of managing their pain. When I discovered one of Marianne’s coping mechanisms it was devastating.“Deep down she knows she is a bad personality, corrupted, wrong, and all her efforts to be right, to have the right opinions, to say the right things, these efforts only disguise what is buried inside her, the evil part of herself.”On seeing two friends happy together… “It gives Marianne a window into real happiness, though a window she cannot open herself or ever climb through.”I loved the way the author portrayed these characters as so very flawed, but gave us the information we needed to understand them. There’s so much pain in their young lives that it made my heart hurt.Connell’s is just as broken:“he had just wanted to be normal, to conceal the parts of himself that he found shameful and confusing.”“…internally he felt nothing. He was like a freezer item that had thawed too quickly on the outside and was melting everywhere, while the inside was still frozen solid.”Can these two people ever find happiness? Not just with each other, but with life in general. My heart broke, then grew hopeful, and then broke again. I read the majority of this novel in one sitting. I could not tear myself away. The writing is gorgeous and I’m in awe that someone so young has such insight into the human heart and can write in a way that delivers such an emotional punch.It’s no secret that books that delve deep into a character’s psyche are my favorite types of reads. They deliver all the emotions that makes for an unforgettable read. People who walk around with invisible scars that make them feel unworthy and ‘less than’ touch me deeply. The ending…I don’t see how it could have ended any other way. It isn’t tied up in a neat bow but gives the reader much to ponder.Note there are no quotation marks which I usually find annoying and gimmicky, but in this case it worked and worked well. After a few pages I didn’t even notice.Marialyce and I read and discussed this together. It’s a book that begs to be discussed the minute you turn the last page.Many thanks to Netgalley for my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. For our reviews on this and other duo reads please visit Marialyce’s blog: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...
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  • Adam Dalva
    January 1, 1970
    This book is amazing, kinetic, insightful, and fun - I'm writing a long-form review for Guernica about it (examining, partially, the spectrum of reactions on this site), so I can't say too much yet, but wow, I could not put this down. It feels ferociously of the moment, yes, but it also has a timelessness all its own. Cut through the hype. Time management is stellar (every new chapter is a time jump ahead), both perspectives are great (every chapter alternates between our two leads, with the att This book is amazing, kinetic, insightful, and fun - I'm writing a long-form review for Guernica about it (examining, partially, the spectrum of reactions on this site), so I can't say too much yet, but wow, I could not put this down. It feels ferociously of the moment, yes, but it also has a timelessness all its own. Cut through the hype. Time management is stellar (every new chapter is a time jump ahead), both perspectives are great (every chapter alternates between our two leads, with the attendant misunderstandings of a really good rom-com), and the characters behave like real people. Excellent supporting cast too, which is a rare treat. There are issues, sure, but this is a pleasure machine.
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    Now both fiction winner and overall winner of the British Book Awards book of the year. Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker – and the only book published after the longlist was announced, and so the last I came to read (a month and 2 days after the announcement). While not shortlisted for that prize - the book is now (and not surprisingly) starting to sweep other awards: Irish Book of The Year - Best Novel. National Book Award - International Author, Waterstone's Book of the Year - Best Novel and Now both fiction winner and overall winner of the British Book Awards book of the year. Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker – and the only book published after the longlist was announced, and so the last I came to read (a month and 2 days after the announcement). While not shortlisted for that prize - the book is now (and not surprisingly) starting to sweep other awards: Irish Book of The Year - Best Novel. National Book Award - International Author, Waterstone's Book of the Year - Best Novel and Best Book, Costa Award - Best Novel. I have little doubt that the author will be the one on the Booker longlist that we will hear most of in the years ahead and that this book (probably alone of the longlist) will be on the shelves in mainstream bookshops in say 5 years' time.Returning to my review:The other books on the longlist draw on wider elements: graphics and alt-right, crime genre conventions, Greek mythology and legend, immersive research into the penal system, environmental passion, free verse and film noir, dystopia, grime and urban slang, refugee crisis, steampunk and slavery, greyhounds and spying, stream of consciousness: and the reader’s view of each book depends, at least in part, on her (or his) views on how well the author has translated those aspects into languageThis book is though little more than an internally focused, but two sided tale of millennial student friendship and love – and hence to a very large extent stands or falls on the readers view of the author’s writing and her characterisation of the thoughts and motivations of the two protagonists.In my view the author largely succeeds and, much to my surprise, this is one of my favourite books on the longlist.Connell and Marianne attend the same school – Connell quietly popular, Marianne widely shunned for her perceived eccentricity – but the two have two links: both are intellectual and Connell’s single mother cleans for Marianne’s widowed mother. The two start a tentative sexual and covert relationship and both apply (successfully) for Trinity where their relative status is turned on its head and more in line with their social status – Connell struggling with the simultaneous vacuity and confidence of his fellow students, and Marianne thriving.The book which moves forwards in unevenly spaced chapters which are dated and title (for example) Three Months Later, chapters which are told form alternating third party viewpoints and which often look back on key events since the last chapter and more particularly on the ever changing dynamic of the relationship between the two.Connell’s relationship to literature (like the authors) is complex – struggling with the middle class attitude to literature he still desperately wants to be part of it – which even leads to the book’s ending. Connell (and the author’s) ambiguity is captured in a number of quotes: It seems to Connell that the same imagination he uses as a reader is necessary to understand real people also, and to be intimate with them.Connell couldn’t think of any reason why these literary events took place, what they contributed to anything, what they meant. They were attended only by people who wanted to be the kind of people who attended themIt was culture as class performance, literature fetished for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they made afterwards feel superior to the undereducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about Key themes examined in the book include: Class dynamics and social privilege; Masculinity and feminity – and the privileges and burdens of each; The aftermath of the end of the Celtic Tiger, and its economic and social effects on the millennial generation that reached adulthood after it, including their loss of faith in capitalism (having already lost faith in the church); Power dynamics and how these can alter across different social milieu; Fitting in and standing out – and how different people can adopt different positions over time; Intimacy and independence ; Self-image and its interaction with abusive relationships and with depression.I described Sally Rooney’s last book – Conversations With Friends – as “an interesting debut by a young author writing with a fresh new voice about a young character experiencing a very old story (a woman having an affair with an older married man)”. Despite its many differences, this book is again simply a young author writing with a fresh new voice about (in this case) two young characters experiencing an even older story – how does friendship translate into love and how can you really know the mind of someone else. Albeit one with a dark undercurrent. Jane Austen for the millennial generation. One night the library started closing just as he reached the passage in Emma where it seems like Mr Knightly is going to marry Harriet, and he had to close the book and walk home in a state of strange emotional agitation …………. It feels intellectually unserious to concern himself with fictional people marrying one another. But there it is – literature moves him. And there it is – this book moved me.
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  • Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
    January 1, 1970
    I genuinely have no idea how to rate this. I LOVED the first half, felt lukewarm towards the middle, and then hated the ending????? The characters had so much chemistry but they refused to communicate I just 😤TW: sexual assault, domestic violence, depression, suicide
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  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    I had been influenced by a friend - whom I adore & respect - by her 1 star review.... way before this book started gaining momentum and hit the stores a month ago. This book wasn’t for my friend - but it sure was for me. I’ve own an ‘Advance Reader’s Edition’, of Sally Rooney’s paper copy for a year and a half. It sat on my shelf, unread. Rooney’s first novel “Conversations With Friends”, was wonderful. I admit having a thing for the type of writer Sally Rooney is:*Addicting* thought-provoki I had been influenced by a friend - whom I adore & respect - by her 1 star review.... way before this book started gaining momentum and hit the stores a month ago. This book wasn’t for my friend - but it sure was for me. I’ve own an ‘Advance Reader’s Edition’, of Sally Rooney’s paper copy for a year and a half. It sat on my shelf, unread. Rooney’s first novel “Conversations With Friends”, was wonderful. I admit having a thing for the type of writer Sally Rooney is:*Addicting* thought-provoking reading for me. “Normal People” is contemporary - romantic-tragic - comic - fresh - psychologically sharp - emotional - and very perceptive. Rooney leaves me lingering in her characters. They are flawed and frustrated. I ‘felt’ flawed and frustrated reading it! At times I wanted to scream at the characters - other times my heart just broke. I knew I wanted to read this novel. I even knew it would most likely drive me into my head. ( it did). I’m not sure why I didn’t open it last year. The book-cover alone has that ‘curl-up-and-get- sucked-in- feeling’, to it. And that’s exactly what happened. I COULD NOT STOP READING. ‘Addicted’! I will never doubt my own gut desire again when it comes to a Sally Rooney novel. I’m a fan here to stay. Totally love what she creates. SOMETHING HAS SHIFTED IN ME, too, with respect to romance novels. I can no longer say...“Oh, I don’t read romance novels”... It depends...Heck, “Crime and Punishment”, had romance. Loaded with power and cruelty... but still some romance. “East of Eden”, by John Steinbeck was filled with juicy romance...( destructive force)... but still...lust and romance was present. Helen Hoang’s book, “The Kiss Quotient”, more modern, had romance written all over it. I loved it, too. Laugh at me if you wish...but in the same way that I got hooked on the two main characters, ( Tessa and Hardin), in Anna Todd’s “After Series”.....( also a young author like Sally Rooney)....I was hooked on the relationship’ between Connell and Marianne in “Normal People”. I’m sure that Rooney would not turn this book into a series… but if she did, I’d read it. The electricity and entanglement between this Connell and Marianne - was soooo complex. I wanted to join their conversations about their families—about the way each felt about themselves, and each other.... and all the things that were happening to them. When I finished the last page, my mind continued swimming in thoughts. Most, I was sad to leave them. Soooo many fabulous sentences - page after page. Gorgeous reflective and intimate writing. Sally Rooney is an ‘it’ author for me. LOVED IT!!!! ....Ha... if you can’t tell. I’ll end with one expert: “All these years they’ve been like two little plants sharing the same pot of soil, growing around one another, contorting to make room, taking certain unlikely positions”.
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  • Anna Luce
    January 1, 1970
    ★★✰✰✰ 2 grungy starsIf you believe that characters who dislike themselves, shrug a lot and say "I don't know" 24/7 , are very deep and realistic, well this is the perfect read for you. Or if you enjoy reading about "in" authors...look no further. After all, Rooney is "defining a generation". Yikes! If you are thinking about reading this novel, I suggest you listen to the following song instead, since it will take you less time and you will get the same story:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjMwd ★★✰✰✰ 2 grungy starsIf you believe that characters who dislike themselves, shrug a lot and say "I don't know" 24/7 , are very deep and realistic, well this is the perfect read for you. Or if you enjoy reading about "in" authors...look no further. After all, Rooney is "defining a generation". Yikes! If you are thinking about reading this novel, I suggest you listen to the following song instead, since it will take you less time and you will get the same story:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjMwd...While I enjoyed Rooney's style, the way in which she interweaves ordinary moments with emotionally charged ones and the uncertainty that pervades her story, I was also annoyed by how artificial her novel is. I had the impression that Rooney was trying to conjure a certain millennial "vibe" through her characters and their experiences. Connell and Marianne lacked depth and, as stupid as it might sound, character. Their looks were emphasised in a way that made them "stand out" from others: they are skinny and beautiful, they smoke, they make languid movements, they are smart, and unlike their peers they actually care about world politics. Throughout the course of this novel we are told how DIFFERENT and SPECIAL they are. Marianne comes from a wealthy and abusive family (we are supposed to feel bad for her), Connell was raised by his mother and suffers from bouts of anxiety and depression (we are also supposed to feel bad for him). That they have issues that they can't cope with is realistic, but what I didn't appreciate is the romanticising of their difficulties. What I didn't like is that being "alienated" is synonym of "cool" and that seeking sadomasochistic relationships is understandable/inevitable if you come from an abusive family. Rooney handles serious issues (eg. an abusive family, depression, etc.) very badly. A book that handles trauma and self-harming incredibly well is What Red Was by Rosie Price. There we see why the characters behave in self-destructive ways, but in NP these things seem merely props.Marianne and Connell aren't terrible people but god, they are so self-involved. Their relationship is made to appear fraught but I didn't always understand why. Drama for the sake of drama? They enter forgettable relationships with equally forgettable people but they remain fixated on each other. Why? No one knows...Marianne is depicted by the author and the other characters as being the sort of person who does not to care about others' opinion of her but soon after a breakup with a cliched dick boyfriend she is obsessed with what people are saying about her...Connor is...intelligent? Indecisive? As interesting as a slice of white bread?!Secondary characters and family members are barely sketched out, they have little to no purpose other than creating more "drama" for the main characters. Marianne's family was so badly written that I had a hard time taking any of them seriously. Her brother is laughably cruel and her mother is uncaring and snobbish (they are rich so...). Friends from college serve very little purpose, other than making the main characters seem "different" and "real" (special snowflake alert).What I disliked the most is that by the end neither Marianne or Connell show any sort of character growth. Not that I always want to read about characters who learn from their mistakes or gain some sort of insight from their experience, I can appreciate characters that keep perpetuating their 'bad' behaviour or even characters who get worse and as their story progresses they regress into bad habits etc. But they have to be believable. These two seemed were not. They were merely an 'aesthetic', more befitting as subjects of a black and white grunge photo than anything else. The only reason why I finished this novel is that I listened to the audiobook and the narrator managed to make this otherwise unappetising storyline sort of okay.
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    I am such a fan of Sally Rooney’s writing and I cannot imagine this changing, ever. The way she constructs her characters is something extraordinary and I am so very glad this book is on the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I needed a brilliant book after some of other nominated books just did not work for me at all. I really hope she’ll make the shortlist.Told in alternating viewpoints and skipping forward in time, this book chronicles Connell’s and Marianne’s friendship/relationship I am such a fan of Sally Rooney’s writing and I cannot imagine this changing, ever. The way she constructs her characters is something extraordinary and I am so very glad this book is on the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I needed a brilliant book after some of other nominated books just did not work for me at all. I really hope she’ll make the shortlist.Told in alternating viewpoints and skipping forward in time, this book chronicles Connell’s and Marianne’s friendship/relationship from their final year in school until shortly after their undergraduate degree. It is both fast-paced and intimate in a way that nearly perfectly catered to my reading preferences. For me the intimacy of her story worked exceedingly well; she narrows her gaze into those two characters in a way that made them near unbearably real for me. Rooney’s prose is readable and without frills but still expertly done to keep me engaged but for me, Rooney’s biggest strength are her characters; they are fully realized and flawed people who I cannot help but root for. Even more so than in her debut novel, she expertly broke my heart. I felt for these two people who keep on missing each other, who just for the life of them cannot communicate effectively, and who still cannot be without each other.While I think that Conversations With Friends is the stronger of her two novels, both of them are ridiculously well-done and I am glad Rooney gets all the praise she deserves. She is such an exciting voice and I just cannot wait to see what she does next.You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    Engrossing, complex, and emotionally honest, Normal People is an understated powerhouse of a novel. As this book ends up being so much more than the sum of its parts it's particularly difficult to summarize, but basically, it's a sort-of-love-story about Connell and Marianne, two young people growing up in small town Ireland together, who both move to Dublin for university in 2011.There isn't much going on in this book aside from Connell and Marianne's 'will they/won't they' relationship, but I Engrossing, complex, and emotionally honest, Normal People is an understated powerhouse of a novel. As this book ends up being so much more than the sum of its parts it's particularly difficult to summarize, but basically, it's a sort-of-love-story about Connell and Marianne, two young people growing up in small town Ireland together, who both move to Dublin for university in 2011.There isn't much going on in this book aside from Connell and Marianne's 'will they/won't they' relationship, but I wouldn't describe this as a romance novel as much as a novel about being human. Sally Rooney highlights with razor-sharp precision the oddities and intricacies that complicate interpersonal interactions, even between two people who love one another. This book is about miscommunication, but not miscommunication as a plot device; miscommunication as an intrinsic part of the human experience, naturally calling into question the possibility of truly knowing another person. Connell and Marianne's inability to open up to one another is so much bigger than these two individual characters; it's about gender roles and socioeconomic differences and power dynamics and social status and preconceived notions and projections and misinterpretations, and Rooney examines it all minutely through the lens of this one ill-fated sort-of-couple. She also has the uncanny ability to cut to the emotional core of a scene without sensationalizing, and I think that's what strikes me as the most accomplished element of this novel.I think this book is inevitably going to be underestimated by some because of its premise, and because of all the hyperbolic claims that Rooney is the definitive voice of her generation. But it's a deceptively clever book; it's perceptive where it could easily be vapid, it's clear-eyed where it could be melodramatic, and it has more intellectual and emotional depth than anything else I've read recently. A bit of an unconventional choice for the Booker longlist, but it fully earned its spot in my opinion, and I'd love to see it shortlisted.
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  • Hugh
    January 1, 1970
    Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018This will probably be the last book I read from this year's longlist (unless Snap or Sabrina are shortlisted). I have been hearing great things about Sally Rooney since her name got a number of glowing recommendations in last year's end-of-year reviews, but I only got round to reading her first novel Conversations with Friends last week. I was impressed by that, so my expectations for this one were very high.I found the first couple of chapters a little fl Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018This will probably be the last book I read from this year's longlist (unless Snap or Sabrina are shortlisted). I have been hearing great things about Sally Rooney since her name got a number of glowing recommendations in last year's end-of-year reviews, but I only got round to reading her first novel Conversations with Friends last week. I was impressed by that, so my expectations for this one were very high.I found the first couple of chapters a little flat, but once the characters were established, the rest of the book became a compelling read, and I couldn't resist finishing the whole book in a single day. Like Conversations With Friends, this one is at heart a love story, but it is far from being a sentimental romance.At the start of the book in 2011 (a time of economic depression after the "Celtic Tiger" boom), Marianne is a loner, an outcast in her final year at school from a rich (view spoiler)[(and as becomes clear later abusive) (hide spoiler)] family in a small town in Mayo. Connell is the son of their cleaner (a young single mother), and a popular star of the school football team. Both are very intelligent, and they develop a clandestine relationship. Marianne persuades Connell to follow her to Trinity College in Dublin, where most of the rest of the book is set over a four year period. In Dublin their roles are reversed - Marianne finds friends quickly but Connell finds it difficult due to class snobbery.Their relationship is a complex one, and the book explores their inner worlds intensely, and like Conversations with Friends this takes them to some pretty dark places - Marianne has a masochistic streak and is attracted to sadistic bullies, while Connell escapes his depression to find some redemption as a writer (which allows Rooney to make some playfully acerbic comments about the literary world). As in Conversations with Friends the second half of the book is darker and deeper than the first, (view spoiler)[and the ending has an element of ambiguity (hide spoiler)].The writing is sharp and witty throughout, and Rooney's ability to inhabit her characters is very impressive. This book is definitely worthy of shortlisting, and could yet be a potential Booker winner.
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!3.5 StarsIf I were to simply tell you what this story is about on the surface, it would end up sounding too commonplace to be of much interest. A story of a popular high school boy, Connell, whose mother cleans house for the mother of an awkward high school age girl, Marianne. A girl who is somewhat of social outcast at their high school. Aside from seeing him routinely outside of school when he picks his mother up at her house, the only other thing they have in common is tha !! NOW AVAILABLE !!3.5 StarsIf I were to simply tell you what this story is about on the surface, it would end up sounding too commonplace to be of much interest. A story of a popular high school boy, Connell, whose mother cleans house for the mother of an awkward high school age girl, Marianne. A girl who is somewhat of social outcast at their high school. Aside from seeing him routinely outside of school when he picks his mother up at her house, the only other thing they have in common is that they’re both bright students. In fact, they are the smartest in their class. Book smart, anyway. A somewhat awkward relationship starts as they have small opportunities to talk while he waits for his mother to finish her cleaning chores, and it isn’t long before they are involved in a secret, sexual relationship. Secret, because he doesn’t want his friends to know, and because she is so used to being treated poorly by her family and others, this doesn’t seem to raise an issue for her. After graduation, they both attend Trinity College in Dublin, and their roles are reversed in terms of popularity. This creates a personal struggle for Connell, and for Marianne, as the shift in their relationship becomes more apparent, their friendship begins to be affected. Following their on-and-off relationship over the years, this began to suffer, for me, as the story went on. There seemed to be rather significant gaps in the story, I didn’t understand her lack of a relationship with her family, her brother’s abusive attitude and behavior, or her mother’s lack of anything approaching affection for her. There were parts that I loved, parts that I found disturbing, and parts that just felt awkward. Overall I found myself deeply moved, and alternately disturbed, by this story. Pub Date: 16 Apr 2019Many thanks for the ARC provided by Crown Publishing / Hogarth
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  • Lucy Langford
    January 1, 1970
    3.5***You learn nothing profound about yourself simply by being bullied; but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget.This was a hard book to review as it is so outside my usual type of book. This book follows Marianne: intellectual, cold and a wallflower; and Connell: likable, lives in poverty and anxious how people see him. Both have secret family lives outside what their classmates can see; one in a household of love and one from coldness. These two unlikely people be 3.5***You learn nothing profound about yourself simply by being bullied; but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget.This was a hard book to review as it is so outside my usual type of book. This book follows Marianne: intellectual, cold and a wallflower; and Connell: likable, lives in poverty and anxious how people see him. Both have secret family lives outside what their classmates can see; one in a household of love and one from coldness. These two unlikely people become friends and then lovers, navigating their lives in their small rural Irish town to their experiences at college in Dublin. The book journey's their lives from school to university and how these two mismatched young people are inescapable from one another's lives, always drawn to each other.Normal people shows how one person can impact the decisions and actions of anothers life. While I would say the book is simplistic, focusing on the relationship between these two characters, Sally Rooney's narrative of the two character's shows deep vulnerabilities, complexities and unsureness in their thoughts, behaviours and lives. This book documented class issues, mental health issues, relationship issues and explored how two characters are trying to find themselves in today's world. This was all done with reference to today's technology as well and really mirrored a lot of young people's experiences. There was also the frankness of describing sex in the book which was attuned to the character's behaviours and being 'normal people'. Overall this was an easy read and something different from what I usually pick up!
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I'm late to the Normal People party but DAMNNNN! This book gave me all the feels. The good, the bad, and the ugly. This is the story of Connell and Marianne, and their relationship, as they navigate from high school and throughout college. The entire time I read this I was screaming in my head for these two just to be together and to stop screwing everything up....for me. Yes, you read that right, I felt like I had some personal stake in this relationship and that can only be attributed to Sally I'm late to the Normal People party but DAMNNNN! This book gave me all the feels. The good, the bad, and the ugly. This is the story of Connell and Marianne, and their relationship, as they navigate from high school and throughout college. The entire time I read this I was screaming in my head for these two just to be together and to stop screwing everything up....for me. Yes, you read that right, I felt like I had some personal stake in this relationship and that can only be attributed to Sally Rooney's writing. She made me become invested in these characters. They are both damaged people and yet I adored each of them immensely even when they were infuriating me. I alternated between wanting to hug them and smack them with each turn of the page. "He’s amused at himself, getting wrapped up in the drama of novels like that. It feels intellectually unserious to concern himself with fictional people marrying one another. But there it is: literature moves him. One of his professors calls it “the pleasure of being touched by great art.” And Sally Rooney touched my heart. This isn't a romance novel. This is a book about a relationship that is so real and authentic that I sometimes forgot that these weren't actual friends of mine. To say it struck a chord with me would be an understatement. 4 stars!
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  • Justin
    January 1, 1970
    Whoa... guys... I just finished Normal... man, I just... I don’t know... what am I, what am I, uh, missing? This, uh, this... this wasn’t good. Not good at all. I’m so confused. This is, um, this is... this book is everywhere right now, being highly praised and all that. Websites I trust are telling me this is, this is one of the best, one of the best books of the year so far. But, guys... wow. I’ve never felt more disconnected from a story. I couldn’t care less about either one of these charact Whoa... guys... I just finished Normal... man, I just... I don’t know... what am I, what am I, uh, missing? This, uh, this... this wasn’t good. Not good at all. I’m so confused. This is, um, this is... this book is everywhere right now, being highly praised and all that. Websites I trust are telling me this is, this is one of the best, one of the best books of the year so far. But, guys... wow. I’ve never felt more disconnected from a story. I couldn’t care less about either one of these characters, and I definitely didn’t care about anyone else in the book because, man, I don’t think the author cared either. This whole thing just felt lifeless to me, like it wanted to be something huge (and it sure is being pushed like it is), but there is really nothing about this book I found redeeming. I hung around until the end thinking something would resolve or the story would progress somehow, but it just kind of fizzles out and it’s done. I wish it would have at least ended with an apology for taking up too much space in the crowded book world. Seriously, the whole back and forth of I love you, let’s have sex, do whatever you want, we’re different, I can’t tell anyone about you, I love you, I’m seeing someone else, I’m so sad, life is hard, being 20 is tough... that is basically the book. It just kind of bounces around those themes over and over again. There’s nothing in the book to make me care of these kids are in love or not, and it really feels like this should be a YA novel, but it pushed the characters ages up just a bit to say “Nope, no no no... adults here. We have adults coming through! This is Adult Fiction folks! It reads like Twilight without the vampires, but someone give this bad boy a Man Booker prize! Adult book here, ladies and gentlemen! Don’t get it twisted!” I don’t get it. I didn’t connect with this at all, and I would recommend steering clear of this one and moving on to something else on your list. As my old librarian used to say... “So little books, so little time”. He’s the only person who has ever said that. I think he trademarked it. He’s right. Skip this.
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  • Johann (jobis89)
    January 1, 1970
    “Most people go through their whole lives, without ever really feeling that close with anyone.”Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland, but the similarities end there as they are from two very different worlds.I’ve seriously been putting off writing this review because I just don’t know what to say! I feel like I can’t put into words why I loved this book - I just did. As someone who went through very similar experiences to the characters, in terms of both school and “Most people go through their whole lives, without ever really feeling that close with anyone.”Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland, but the similarities end there as they are from two very different worlds.I’ve seriously been putting off writing this review because I just don’t know what to say! I feel like I can’t put into words why I loved this book - I just did. As someone who went through very similar experiences to the characters, in terms of both school and university, I felt like I was reading about the intertwined lives of two of my close friends.There is something incredibly beautiful in its simplicity. It’s about normal people, people who you feel like you may know, living relatively normal lives. And yet it’s written in a really impactful way. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about Marianne and Connell and wondering how they were getting on... are they okay?!! *weeps*Without giving anything anyway, I have to come to like the ending after initially being annoyed by it. I feel like it is yet another reflection of how real life just is sometimes - we don’t always grow or progress or move past our issues. More often than not, life isn’t wrapped up in a neat little bow.Normal People is one of those books that I LOVED and yet wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to everyone. If you like the sound of a book that covers topics like mental health, socioeconomic status, and the relationship dynamics between two people who are just destined to be in each other’s lives...then yes, pick this one up!I’m so thrilled that I enjoyed this book so much and that I can really shout about, and support, an Irish author as talented as Rooney. 5 stars!
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  • Lola
    January 1, 1970
    This book did not affect me in the same way it seems to have affected other people. It did not make me angry, or sad, and did not move me, really. That is because I never cared for Marianne or Connell. Sometimes I even hated them. Usually, I do. Usually, I care about the protagonists I read about, especially when they show their vulnerabilities to me. And I did enjoy reading about this on-and-off (almost) couple. Because they are so, so humanly flawed. But they are not exactly likeable.Sally Roo This book did not affect me in the same way it seems to have affected other people. It did not make me angry, or sad, and did not move me, really. That is because I never cared for Marianne or Connell. Sometimes I even hated them. Usually, I do. Usually, I care about the protagonists I read about, especially when they show their vulnerabilities to me. And I did enjoy reading about this on-and-off (almost) couple. Because they are so, so humanly flawed. But they are not exactly likeable.Sally Rooney is a great storyteller. There was barely a story to tell, the focus being on the relationship between Marianne and Connell and their relationships with the other people in their lives. And yet I was hooked from the very first page. I found this author’s writing close to perfect—a different style, but one that worked perfectly in my opinion. The lack of quotations marks for dialog may annoy some, but after reading Tin Man, I was ready for something like this to happen again and I’ve learned to navigate such stories better. If you pay attention, you will not be confused. If you skim, probably.I also found this story very atmospheric, whimsical. It spans over three years in the life of Marianne and Connell, during which they both grow, experience, learn, realize and fall apart. I liked the pacing and narration so much I would not have minded this book being at least a hundred pages longer. It’s a quietly dark and sometimes depressing little literary work, what with the many serious themes creeping up the surface (abuse, submission, depression, loneliness, heartbreak…) but never overwhelming and always interesting. Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    The night before the Man Booker Shortlist was announced, I was approved for the eARC of this title, so I stayed up late finishing it. Sadly it was not included in the shortlist, but if you like novels about relationships, this is excellent. It traces Marianne and Connell's friendship from childhood, and also tackles class difference and family violence. (I often find my favorite books from award lists are long but not shortlisted anyway.)Thanks to the publisher for granting me early access; sadl The night before the Man Booker Shortlist was announced, I was approved for the eARC of this title, so I stayed up late finishing it. Sadly it was not included in the shortlist, but if you like novels about relationships, this is excellent. It traces Marianne and Connell's friendship from childhood, and also tackles class difference and family violence. (I often find my favorite books from award lists are long but not shortlisted anyway.)Thanks to the publisher for granting me early access; sadly this doesn't come out in the USA until April 2019. You can bide your time by reading her earlier work.
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  • Paula Kalin
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come...
  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    I always fall for coming-of-age stories. ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ There’s something so relatable to the tumultuous times, the unsettling feelings we’ve all experienced, and hopefully that feeling of contentment that comes when we reach a point beyond the hardest parts. Connell and Marianne are teens attending the same school and appear they don’t know each other, but they do. Connell’s mom works at Marianne’s house. The two could not be more different. Connell is a popular athlete, while Marianne is a loner. The I always fall for coming-of-age stories. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ There’s something so relatable to the tumultuous times, the unsettling feelings we’ve all experienced, and hopefully that feeling of contentment that comes when we reach a point beyond the hardest parts. Connell and Marianne are teens attending the same school and appear they don’t know each other, but they do. Connell’s mom works at Marianne’s house. The two could not be more different. Connell is a popular athlete, while Marianne is a loner. The following year they are attending Trinity College. This time around, Marianne is the social one, and Connell has become shy and uncomfortable in his new social surroundings. Connell and Marianne begin a dance. They drift apart and circle around each other, but often are brought right back together. At one point, each are veering off-path, and they have to decide if it’s worth coming together to save the other. The writing here is my favorite, spare and intentional. There’s so much to analyze in the class differences, first loves, friendship and family dynamics explored here with nuanced skill. Overall, this story took me so many places emotionally. I have to admit I was a bit spent by the end, but I think that illustrates how invested I was. The biggest messages are centered around being young and in love, and this is executed so well, with so much tenderness and care, so smart, that I fell in love with these characters and their story. I was enraptured and engrossed. I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
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  • Malia
    January 1, 1970
    Though it took me a long time to read, I do understand what the hype is about. Normal People essentially provides what the title would suggest, and yet, in this deep observation of two people Rooney manages to capture something of what it means to grow up, what it means to feel untethered and in love and lost and much more. Her style is astute and thoughtful, but never descends into dramatics for effect. This is not a gripping book, at least it wasn't for me, but it was a book that I don't think Though it took me a long time to read, I do understand what the hype is about. Normal People essentially provides what the title would suggest, and yet, in this deep observation of two people Rooney manages to capture something of what it means to grow up, what it means to feel untethered and in love and lost and much more. Her style is astute and thoughtful, but never descends into dramatics for effect. This is not a gripping book, at least it wasn't for me, but it was a book that I don't think I'll forget very soon. The characters seemed real and I felt for them in they vulnerability and cringed for them when I saw them sabotaging themselves. I'll definitely give Rooney's other book a try as well.Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
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