ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born on February 20, 1991, Irish author Sally Rooney is a fairly new name in the literary world. Nonetheless, the two books she published have taken over the world and made her a sensation. Her first novel, Conversations with Friends was published in 2017, shortly followed by her next book Normal People in 2018. The novel is being made into a 12-part series as a co-production of BBC3 and the online platform Hulu. Even though she is just starting, her work has already made enough noise for her to be compared by many critics to the American writer J. D. Salinger.
It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about.
Rooney brings home the story of Marianne and Connell, amidst an era in which entitlement, confidence and financial security propel the social machinery. In the story, issues of class, privilege, passivity, submission, emotional and physical pain, kindness, and depression, all come into play. Her focus is on young adults as they struggle to navigate the minefields of intimacy against the backdrop of an economically uncertain, post-recession world threatened by climate change, political upheaval, and questions about the morality and viability of capitalism
By adopting a collegiate setting, Rooney reveals the ways in which we allow pre-established ways of thinking to guide and limit our growth into adulthood. Rooney’s main appeal lies in her apt observations on young love. Even as technological advances have made it easier to communicate, so much remains unspoken. Misunderstandings that could be easily cleared up with a straightforward conversation are rendered into emotional stalemates — and major events on which the plot hinges. Maintaining a close third-person point of view, Rooney shifts between Connell and Marianne, offering readers agonizing windows into the things they keep from one another.
Never once does Normal People tries to prove its intelligence with coldness. Never once does it allow its romance to overwhelm the clarity of its prose. It takes a knife to its central relationship, slicing it apart to examine its dysfunctional power dynamics and never flinching away from the mess it uncovers — while also allowing that relationship to feel genuine, meaningful and even sweet. Reading Normal People, you can not only luxuriate in the romance of a love story, but are also forced to analyze its precarious balance and shifts of power, to stop thinking about who is subservient to whom, and why, and how.
Rooney’s dialogue, like her descriptive prose, is slyly ironic, alternately evasive and direct, but always articulate. It cuts to the heart. She seems remarkably comfortable writing about sex — even uncomfortable sex — and she seamlessly integrates well-crafted texts, emails, and Facebook posts into her narratives like the digital native she is. Yet, while Rooney may write about apparent aimlessness and all the distractions of our age, her novels are laser-focused and word-perfect. They build power by a steady accretion of often simple declarative sentences that track minuscule shifts in feelings. The thing that makes Rooney old-fashioned is that she believes in true love, even if her lovers lack the vocabulary or even the conceptual framework to recognize this is what they have together. It’s obvious to the reader that these two must be together, and the desire to see them figure that out and make it happen provides all the momentum that Normal People needs.
Generally I find men are a lot more concerned with limiting the freedoms of women than exercising personal freedom for themselves.
That being said, humans are far from perfect – and this is especially true for authors. This novel proves that Rooney is also a mortal after all. Some of the plotting feels heavy-handed and expedient. Her characters cry more often than you will cry over them. The plot borders on the melodramatic. Secondary characters enter and fade out of the action without much fanfare, with Marianne and Connell’s subjectivity taking precedence over an inchoate plot peppered with the schoolyard drama of committees and petty social politics. The narrative arc can be distilled into a will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic between the two, and Rooney makes much of the nonchalant ways we are cruel toward one another.
In a nutshell, Normal People is a must read for today’s generation, and is recommended to all. It seems justified to rate it 3.9 stars out of 5. Readers should pick this book up when they have some free time, since it is unlikely they will stop before they are done reading it.
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