Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People tells the story of two key protagonists, Marianne and Connell. The novel has received critical acclaim and rightfully so. Rooney’s writing gets under your skin and she has an ability to get close to the bone reflecting the intricacies and realities of the worlds she describes. Her portrayals of school and then university life are accurate and she weaves in commentary about class and youth in a seamless manner.

Normal People follows Marianne and Connell’s relationship as it develops from an unusual teen romance. The distinction between love and friendship is blurred as they fall in and out of love.

Whilst Rooney’s debut, Conversations with Friends, was gripping, Normal People almost meanders. The pace picks up, however, when the duo begin at Trinity College Dublin. After a period of separation, Connell bumps into Marianne at a party. Immediately it is becomes evident that the power has shifted, or at least it initially seems that way. Marianne seems more popular whilst Connell is struggling to adjust to university life.

The question of who holds the power is an interesting thread throughout. It feels almost as though there is a perpetual confusion as to where this lies.

Ultimately the novel documents the complexities of youth and love. It uncovers the ways in which childhood experiences continue to seep into our adult lives. This novel will be remembered and reread and so it should be.

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