“Normal People” by Sally Rooney ended up in my reading pile almost accidentally – I was ordering a bunch of books online and was short of a free delivery for a few dollars. When skimming through the book website, I was thinking what else I can add to my cart and somehow in the list of bestsellers, I came across “Normal People”. I have heard of this book before in some reviews so I decided that it would be a good choice to get to the free delivery. I finished “Normal People” pretty much in one day. It was so worth it.
“Normal People” is a story about Marianne and Connell – the story starts to follow them as two teenagers in high school in Ireland and goes on for several years of the university. Sally Rooney introduces us to the characters when they are still in high school – Marianne is an intelligent underdog and Connell is a popular smart kind. We then, are taken to the Trinity College in Dublin where the tables turn and Marianne is the popular one. I don’t want to reveal too much so let’s leave the plot part just at this.
There are two things that I particularly liked about “Normal People”. The first one is the writing style which was brilliant. It is rare that I come across the book that you can breathe through like you could the “Normal People”. The style is very laconic, logical, light but at the same time capturing the complexities of relationship in the slightest detail. This book was very close for me to “Educated” by Tara Westover in terms of writing which I thought was really brilliant.
The second thing that I liked is the depiction of the complexities of the human relationship – the exploration of the relationship in this book is so sleek, so subtle, it grabs your attention right away and carries you away for almost 300 pages. Yet the book does not have any drama or dramatic turns that stand out from the plot line. It makes you think about words and what those mean and what those imply – Rooney intricately hints you things but does not tell them to you directly so you are left there thinking and guessing. And I like it – I think if the author can make you think in depth with their writing, their mission is accomplished.
Now, a few of my favourite quotes:
“He wants to understand how her mind works. If he silently decides not to say something when they’re talking, Marianne will ask “what?” within one or two seconds. This “what?” question seems to him to contain too much: not just the forensic attentiveness to his silences that allows her to ask in the first place, but a desire for a total communication, a sense that anything unsaid is an unwelcome interruption between them.”
“For a moment it seems possible to keep both worlds, both versions of his life, and to move in between them just like moving through a door. He can have the respect of someone like Marianne and also be well liked in school, he can form secret opinions and preferences, no conflict has to arise, he never has to choose one thing over another. With only a little subterfuge he can live two entirely separate existences, never confronting the ultimate question of what to do with himself or what kind of person he is. This thought is so consoling that for a few seconds, he avoids meeting Marianne’s eye, wanting to sustain the believe for just a little longer. He knows that when he looks at her, he won’t be able to believe it anymore”.
“He understands now that his classmates are not like him. It’s easy for them to have opinions, and to express them with confidence. They don’t worry about appearing ignorant or conceited. They are not stupid people, but they’re not so much smarter than him either. They just move through the worlds in a different way, and he’ll probably never really understand them, and he knows they will never understand him, or even try. “
“What they have now they can never have back again. But for he the pain of loneliness will be nothing to the pain that she used to feel, of being unworthy. He brought her goodness like a gift and now it belongs to her. Meanwhile his life opens out before him in all directions at once. They have done a lot of good for each other. Really, she things, really. People can really change one another. “
I really enjoyed “Normal People”. If you are looking to savour a good writing style, this book is for you 😉
I’m intrigued, thank you for this review! I enjoyed the TV version (it’s available for free on the CBC Gem app/site) but maybe I’ll check out the book. Perhaps the next time I see you in person (whenver that is?!) I could give you back Educated, and pick up this one? 😀
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Yep. I have heard of TV show as well – I am planning to take a look at it 🙂
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Let me know how you think the show compares to the book!