Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there. In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation – awkward but electrifying – something life-changing begins.
Normal People is a story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find they can’t.
Late to the party on this one and unusually for me I chose to watch the TV series prior to reading the book. I loved the TV show and that made me keener to pick up the book, a conversation with Clair always need more books prompted a buddy read and here we are.
I was surprised at how closely the TV series had stuck to the book, making this a very familiar story, the actors Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones were, in my opinion perfectly cast and their voices were loud in the book. Essentially a love story starting in school, we follow this pair as they leave their small town and head to Dublin for university. An outcast in school, Marianne appears to blossom at university while Connell struggles away from his town where everyone knows him and he has an identity. Struggling to communicate, their relationship is ‘on and off’ but an important friendship is ever present and they remain valuable and consistent to each other.
Dark in parts this book touches on domestic violence and depression while exploring friendship and relationships, campus life and class and incorporates these into the story very well. Reinforcing the notion that Connell and Marianne are ‘normal people’ and this is life.
Contemporary fiction at its best, the writing was sharp, the story engaging and very easy to read. I do wonder how much the series influenced my reading experience, I found Connell more sympathetic from the start whereas Clair initially disliked him. Have you read this and have you watched the TV series? What did you think – which did you do first, and which did you prefer? Please do tell me in the comments.
About the Author
Sally Rooney was born in County Maya, Ireland, and presently lives in Dublin. She is the author of the novels Conversations with Friends and Normal People. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the London Review of Books, and elsewhere. Conversations with Friends was shortlisted for both the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Rathbones Folio Prize, and longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize. Rooney was also shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for ‘Mr Salary’ and was the winner of the Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award. Normal People won the Costa Novel of the Year in 2019, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018 as well as the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Rathbones Folio Prize in 2019.