One of the 12 titles, longlisted for 2019’s Dylan Thomas Prize is Sally Rooney’s novel ‘Normal People.’
Insightful, tender and confronting – a novel that gave me much food for thought.
Marianne and Connell are friends. Friends for life. But each of them has no idea what the other goes through. She is regarded as ‘weird’ he’s kind of popular but it changes… no one is allowed to know they like each other.
How do they find their way through life? Connell thinks rich Marianne has it easy. Marianne loves him. But he doesn’t want others to find out – Marianne knows she embarrasses him. She knows she isn’t normal. That is what she has been told all her life.
Together and apart, they go through life and it is not easy. People judge. People can be hurtful and downright mean. Do they care? Marianne doesn’t – Connell too much maybe. How do they handle this? How do they live?
‘Normal People’ is a book you need to go through slowly. Unlike my normal reading tempo – fast-paced! – I took the time to feel the emotions the characters are going through, Marianne and Connor. Both grow up in a little village in rural Ireland, both are somewhat loners even if it doesn’t always look that way.
Both struggle with ‘normal’ behaviour. What is normal anyway? Who can ever truly see what goes on in other people’s minds? It is fascinating to be part of their journey in life and some parts of it we travel along with them, some parts we (the readers) are not given any insight into. We see what happens with Marianne – we perceive why she developed into the person she became but when she makes these important life decisions, we are only witness to the moment itself – not the whirl of emotions that precedes.
The same goes for Connell. When he tells Marianne how his life is – what’s new – we are also told this for the first time. There’s a massive change in their relationship once they go to college – I cannot say too much as I’d hate to spoil plot lines – but we only perceive much later how that makes Connell feel.
I must say I had difficulty with Connell’s character and behaviour. I was totally on Marianne’s side – even at those times I wanted to scream at her to get out. What I most admire about her is her total indifference as to how others think and feel about her behaviour. She is herself. She doesn’t shy away from telling Connell how she feels – she only hides those things anyone who loves someone should be able to see.
The story is chronologically told – the chapters tell us where we are and sometimes, you feel you are in the middle of an intriguing plotline to see it ‘cut short’ and we find
Moreover, in this age of social media and modern communication techniques, this book also shows us how it seems we have lost the inclination (and don’t take the time) to just talk for hours irl (in real life!) and rather believe what we see on other’s Facebook walls than pick up a phone and converse with that person.
Let’s take that away from Sarah Rooney’s insightful novel!
About the Author
Sally Rooney was born in County Mayo and lives in Dublin. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times and The London Review of Books.
She is the author of Conversations with Friends and winner of the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer Award 2017. Her second novel Normal People was published in 2018 and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. She is the editor of the biannual Dublin literary magazine The Stinging Fly.
‘Normal People’ is available at Amazon
|Publisher||Faber & Faber (30 Aug 2018)|