This book has had a ridiculous amount of press this year, and has also been nominated for several accolades, namely the Man Booker Prize 2018 and Costa Book Award 2018, whilst also concluding the year as Waterstone’s Book of the Year, making Sally Rooney a household name in most homes with bookshelves.
What is it precisely that makes Normal People such a successful title? Is it the astute awareness of anxiety, family and coming-of-age awkwardness, which Sally Rooney depicts with precision? Or is it the Irish tale, evoking Trinity and rural Ireland, namely Carricklea? Whatever it is it certainly works, as it had me hooked, but that might have been simply to find out if Connell and Marianne make it to the end of this novel. That is what you are dying to know, can this relationship which started on poor grounding, last until the final page? He, embarrassed to reveal to his friendship group that he was indeed involved with Marianne, and she as time progresses with masochistic tendencies that may stem from the treatment from her brother, Alan.
This second novel for Rooney, the follow-up to acclaimed Conversations with Friends, Normal People has already got a film deal, which will star Liam Neeson, as it has a visual, cinematic quality to it in the same way that One Day was regarded, when David Nicholls’ novel came out in 2009, soon after adapted into a film for general release in 2011. Set in Ireland, there is much of the country to be found in the text, with fully fleshed characters at the fore of the novel. Complex, raw and rich with baggage Connell and Marianne are conceivable, coming from very different backgrounds, but both enabling a rich way of living, opening their minds and perspectives at a time in their lives where this is crucial.
With many threads and twists to the tale that intertwines the two protagonists, that cannot venture too far from one another for long, Normal People is a conceivable painting of how intrinsic relationships can play on the narrative of people’s lives. Well edited, Rooney writes with a conciseness and precision that gives this novel a transient and yet, solid foundation. This will hook in most readers, as it contains themes of kindness, class, integrity and friendship, it’s not easy to put down this book. Like most, I am certainly intrigued to see what next follows Rooney’s second novel.
Normal People is available now and published by Faber and Faber.