I read Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ this past month, after watching the BBC adaptation of it last year. At the time, it seemed to be the perfect antidote to lockdown boredom; an engaging, aesthetically pleasing television series with likeable, relatable characters and a gripping storyline. I enjoyed the series so much, for once I worried that the book might not match up, rather than the other way round.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Rooney uses very simple, selective language that is immediately effective. Her characters, Connell and Marianne, instantly matched up to the TV characters in my mind-although some of my friends who had read the book before watching the series weren’t too sure about the casting, to me it seemed perfect.
I was hooked from the first page, desperate for more of Rooney’s addictive writing. The reader quickly falls into step with the witty dialogue between Marianne and Connell; we are exasperated by Connell’s reluctance to make his feelings public in fear of what people will think, and we are endeared to Marianne as we learn of her determination not to change for anyone else, despite her willingness to do anything for Connell.
We also see the parallels in family life. The difference between Connell’s parentage- a single mother who fell pregnant young and yet has left him with no absence of love or care- and Marianne’s, who has in contrast a cold, distant mother who ignores the abusive tendencies of her son and is often herself cruel to Marianne.
In summary, this book is heart-breaking but beautiful- there is so much care in the writing and creation of characters, and yet it draws readers in almost accidentally it seems, charming any and all those who read it.