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Normal People

by Sally Rooney

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,0402781,324 (3.72)195
"At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He's popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne's house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers--one they are determined to conceal. A year later, they're both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other" --… (more)
  1. 60
    One Day by David Nicholls (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Normal People is more explicit than One Day, but both of these character-driven novels follow a couple who can't resist each other and come together only to separate over and over again.
  2. 30
    Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Though Trust Exercise employs an unconventional storyline that unfolds with stylistically complex flair, and Normal People is more straightforward, both novels play with power dynamics within relationships and explore the limitations of communication.… (more)
  3. 10
    Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: Her second, and even better - they cover quite similar ground
  4. 00
    In Paris With You by Clementine Beauvais (SandSing7)
    SandSing7: The characters and their relationship are eerily similar, the writing is lovely and poetic (even though Paris is written in verse), and it's super weird that even the endings are exactly the same.
  5. 00
    You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here by Frances Macken (WendyRobyn)
    WendyRobyn: These are both coming of age stories in which young adults reassess their childhood relationships after moving away from their Irish home village.
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» See also 195 mentions

English (256)  Dutch (5)  Catalan (4)  Spanish (3)  Swedish (2)  Italian (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (273)
Showing 1-5 of 256 (next | show all)
Unbelievably good writing. It's deceptively simple. The characters, and their challenges, drew me in to their worlds with care. ( )
  fivelrothberg | May 28, 2024 |
Still processing this one. Glad it was a book club choice because there's a lot to disucuss! ( )
  jj24 | May 27, 2024 |
Oh my god I loved this book so much. And it ripped my heart out of my chest! All the feels. ( )
  punkinmuffin | Apr 30, 2024 |
May the Gods strike me down mid-sentence but... I'm just not sure I liked this.

I found Rooney's debut novel, Conversations with Friends, captivating and endlessly amusing, so much so that I gave it one of my coveted 5-star reviews. Normal People feels like a shallow retread of the same ground, with a literary style that turned out to be not something the author created for that deeply ironic, often epistolary novel, but in fact merely her way of writing books. And the bloom is, for this reader, off the rose. I usually annotate books fairly thoroughly; here I only made one note - and that was just to investigate where I can buy chlorophyll chewing gum!

Rooney is still fantastic at much of what she does; she vividly captures moments of pathos and bathos jammed together, our subtle self-delusions to which Time gradually draws our attention, and a certain detached air with which the characters regard their own lives. Both Marianne and Connell have moments of compelling insight, although I would say only the former truly emerges as a fully-realised character. But I felt more and more that the relationship didn't deserve this level of interrogation. I don't wish to commit the grievous sin of comparing a writer's second novel to their first - I really don't - yet much of the playful irony and rich naivete of Conversations' main characters has been lost and replaced by an endless yearning that didn't always feel earned by the context of these two young attractive people. Moreso the supporting characters felt empty (poor, neglected Helen), without the shading and authorial question marks found in the earlier novel. I'm also less convinced - still convinced but only just so - of Rooney's penchant for avoiding quotation marks. In an otherwise typographically standard novel, is it well-motivated? (And, while I enjoy Rooney's heightened dialogue and her self-consciously intelligent characters, I wasn't fully convinced by some of the subsidiary dialogue. Would a highschool student really call something "awfully fucking gay?" I accept that some uneducated kids ten years ago still used the word "gay" as a generic term for something rubbish, but I so strongly associate "awfully" with the kind of prep-school educated classes that the two words strike my ear unnaturally when employed in the one phrase.)

Most disappointingly for me, however, was that I never warmed to the narrative conceit of cutting to various moments in the characters' relationship. To be honest, it comes dangerously close to cheating. Rooney will skip ahead four months, surprising us with Connell and Marianne in a new status quo, only to spend half the chapter giving us flashbacks to what occurred during those four months. As the seasoned reader, I would like to do some of the work for myself; as the novelist, I would like Rooney to create some shadows, some lacunae in the text, with which the reader can do battle. Instead, the time-jumps simply feel like a "hook" for reviewers to discuss the work, creating an aura of structure yet explicitly revealing all that has taken place in the intervening weeks and months.

Still, no-one can deny the splash this novel has made, and it's damned impressive that Rooney has had two such well-received books before the age of 30. It's easy to understand why so many people enjoy her works. Reading her novels, I feel the same sense of generational frisson that I find when watching a TV series like Girls or Broad City: an ecstatic realisation that my generation are at last being represented accurately. No longer forced, as we have been in novels and films created by older artists, to awkwardly re-enact our parents' cultural, sexual, and social mores, but instead freed to be ourselves. That was almost worth the price of admission. Rooney is a writer to watch, and one whose next novel I will keenly await. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
Normal People by Irish author Sally Rooney was longlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2018. It is a contemporary fiction that explores the twists and turns of the relationship between high school then university students Connell and Marianne. The two come from very different social settings, with Connell’s mother working as a domestic for Marianne’s wealthy family. They begin a relationship in secret, largely because Connell struggles to link himself to Marianne’s social pariah status. In university the tables turn and Connell’s introversion keeps him on the outside while Marianne becomes the attractive social butterfly. Over the next few years their relationship is on and off with other people intervening, but despite their breakups they always care for each other and are always drawn back together. The story also explores their mental health struggles, related to Marianne’s dysfunctional family and Connell’s depression.

This was a well-written book. The audio-narration by Aoife McMahon was excellent with a beautiful soothing Irish voice. I confess I lost some engagement about the ⅔ mark and felt somewhat ripped off by the ambivalent ending. ( )
  mimbza | Apr 18, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 256 (next | show all)
[T]he idealized reading experience Rooney casts for her young writer is a magnetic mingling of literary minds that sharpens an intelligence capable not merely of imagining others but of imagining how to be close to them, even how to live with the responsibility of their happiness and dreams.
 
[U]pon critical reflection, the novel’s territory comes to seem like more fog than not. Which is to say: it’s a novel about university life, but without collegiate descriptions or interactions with professors or references to intellectual histories or texts; about growing up, but without any adults [. . .]; about Ireland, but without any sense of place, national history, or even physical description (if Joyce wrote Ulysses in order that Dublin might be reconstructed brick by brick, you’d be hard pressed to even break ground using Normal People); about Connell becoming a writer, but without any meaningful access to his interior development, or any sense conveyed of how his creative “passion” inflects his life; and, finally, about Marianne and Connell’s intertwined fate where we are only intermittently given access to sustained moments of intimacy.
 
Rooney's slivers of insight into how Marianne and Connell wrestle with their emotions and question their identity in the process made it one of the most realistic portrayals of young love I've read. Their relationship is rife with mistakes, misunderstandings, and missed chances that could be simplified if only they communicated and didn't subconsciously suppress their feelings, as millennials are wont to do.
 
Here, youth, love and cowardice are unavoidably intertwined, distilled into a novel that demands to be read compulsively, in one sitting.
 
[W]hile 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.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rooney, Sallyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Balmelli, MauriziaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindell, KlaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McMahon, AoifeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pellisa, IngaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riera, ErnestTraductorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
It is one of the secrets in that change of mental poise which has been fitly named conversion, that to many among us neither heaven nor earth has any revelation till some personality touches theirs with a peculiar influence, subduing them into receptiveness.
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
Dedication
First words
JANUARY 2011

Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell.
Quotations
It feels powerful to him to put an experience down in words, like he's trapping it in a jar and it can never fully leave him.
That's money, the substance that makes the world real. There's something so corrupt and sexy about it.
Outside her breath rises in a fine mist and the snow keeps falling, like a ceaseless repetition of the same infinitesimally small mistake.
His appearance is like a favorite piece of music to her, sounding a little different each time she hears it.
Not for the first time Marianne thinks cruelty does not only hurt the victim, but the perpetrator also, and maybe more deeply and more permanently. You learn nothing very profound about yourself simply by being bullied; but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He's popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne's house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers--one they are determined to conceal. A year later, they're both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other" --

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Book description
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds.

When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years. This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person's life - a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us - blazingly - about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege.
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