“I congratulate and feel sorry for those of you that still have yet to discover Sally Rooney. It doesn’t happen very often, but it is both a great happiness and sorrow when it does – when you read a book that is so good that you, after finishing it, instinctively feel that you never want to read another book again. Partly because you feel that nothing will ever compare to it, but party also because the reading has affected you so deeply.”
I couldn’t agree more with this quote by the Swedish columnist Greta Thurfjell in her review in the magazine Dagens Nyheter. (My translation from Swedish, see the article in Dagens Nyheter for the original quote: Greta Thurfjell: Jag gratulerar och beklagar den som har Sally Rooney framför sig)
Normal People is a very emotional, intense and honest read, with a very unique voice. When I first started reading it, I wasn’t so sure about this book though. I thought it was good, but so different from other books and the ordinary narrative that I didn’t know or couldn’t see where it was going to go. But, luckily, that all changed very quickly and I was completely sucked in to the bittersweet story about Marianne and Connell.
Normal People traces the ever-shifting dynamics between Marianne and Connell, told in the form of conversations between them. Even though it revolves around their relationship from high school through university, it’s not a very romantic book. It’s more of a deep psychological study of two people struggling to maneuver through life and how the two protagonists develop as people. Marianne was the weird one in high school while Connell was the popular jock, but in university their statuses flip, which they never fully recover from. There were so many unspoken words and lost moments between the two take them on different paths that change their lives. Sally Rooney portrays such an honest, raw and real relationship, and aspects such as modern love, class and politics and the lasting effects of trauma. It’s a dark and intense book, exploring the impact of how our life experiences shape who we become in such a quiet, gut-wrenching way it made my heart ache.
I really loved it and definitely recommend it even though it broke my heart to see these characters hurting so much.