Before I begin to talk about Normal People, let me tell you my experience with Sally Rooney.
There was a time when Instagram was flooded with beautiful photos of Sally Rooney’s book covers, followed by great reviews. This is not that weird because I follow a lot of bookstagrams, ok? And, as an influenceable person that I am—yes, I recognize I need to improve this part of me—I knew I had to read her books.
When I was going to buy a book from her, not even knowing which one to choose, I saw that there was a promotion if you bought both books: Conversations with Friends and Normal People. Since I hate to make decisions, I obviously bought both. Which was a bad decision. And it was an excellent one, too.
I read Conversations with Friends first and didn't like it. The characters were pretentious, whoever mentioned more authors and philosophers during an argument would win, and the relationships between the characters were clearly toxic. And I kept thinking to myself: can anyone explain to me why Sally Rooney is so praised and acclaimed? What I just read was... bad.
As you can guess, my desire to read Normal People was subzero. It had to be six months before I could forget the Conversations with Friends effect.
And that was how, one morning, I started reading Normal People. And that was how, that same day, I finished reading Normal People. I got addicted to it!
I loved this book, which, as the title suggests, talks about normal people and who, like all of us, think they are not normal.
The story is about two characters, Marianne and Connell, who are from different social and emotional backgrounds, and their on and off again relationship. Interestingly, they are never officially together the whole time, but they are always drawn to each other’s lives in a significant and magnetic way. We get to follow them through adolescence into early adulthood and the story jumps forward as needed, so we only get a glimpse of the crucial moments for these two characters.
You can easily relate to these characters because they are real and flawed. You begin to root for them and you really want to take care of them and their relationship. You want to say to Marianne that everyone is worthy of love and show her what love is not. You want to say to Connell that feeling sad is normal. And you want to hug them.
It also centers on the realness of our society and its fatal flaws, like the constant need to impress others. And much of the unhappiness of Marianne and Connell is caused by what other people may think of them, what society expects from them and peer pressure. Other current topics discussed in this book are sadness, loneliness, and a sense of inadequacy.
The part that touched me the most is all that is unsaid between the characters. It was so genuine the way the author transmitted how the inability to communicate feelings can damage relationships. It was frustrating, as it is in real life.
I liked Rooney's writing on Normal People. It is straight to the point, and in this book, she convinced me she is a master capturing the 20s when you still don't know what you want to be when you grow up and you are in that self-discovery phase.
As someone who is still trying to understand her place in the world, this book really moved me because I was able to connect with the anxieties, fears, and preoccupations of the characters. I certainly feel their pain because I also struggle to master self-love and self-compassion. And although I can understand my feelings, I'm not very eloquent expressing them and saying what I need out loud.
I guess I'm in an "It's Complicated" relationship with Rooney because Conversations with Friends was a terrible first date, but she won me over on the second date with Normal People. I guess I'll have to wait for the third date to decide if I'll go full throttle to "In a Relationship" mode.
By Sally Rooney
288 pages. 2019.