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Normal People by Sally Rooney
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Normal People

by Sally Rooney

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,8751016,158 (3.77)97
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. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney's second novel breathes fiction with new life.… (more)
  1. 20
    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. 20
    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: A Novel by Clémentine 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.
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» See also 97 mentions

English (96)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  All languages (100)
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
Sally Rooney's much talked about novel, Normal People, was a quick interesting narrative that spans about four years in the lives of a couple, Marianne and Connell. Their relationship begins on different planes, as Connell's mother cleans house for Marianne's family. Connell is popular in school and athletic while Marianne is aloof, considered strange, yet their proximity to each other as Connell comes to her house each day to pick up his mother, allows for a closeness to blossom. Their relationship becomes intense, secretive and sexual, yet at school they hardly acknowledge each other. They are both top students and Marianne's acceptance to Trinity encourages Connell to reach for that goal as well,though scholarship would be needed. When he too is accepted they have a chance to be together in a new environment. At college it is Marianne who finds her niche while Connell struggles to fit in. But Marianne’s status “elevated Connell to the status of rich-adjacent: someone for whom surprise birthday parties are thrown and cushy jobs are procured out of nowhere."
Ms. Rooney then sketches scenes of their relationship scattered months apart as they move in and out of each other's lives. Other boyfriends and girlfriends appear, but yet they are always drawn back together. There is some family history that evolves which shapes Marianne's unusual tendencies and Connell also suffers from some inner demons. All in all I enjoyed following this couple who are anything but normal people, yet they are characters easy to invest in and root for. As Marianne muses,"All these years they’ve been like two little plants sharing the same plot of soil, growing around one another, contorting to make room, taking certain unlikely positions."
Good summary comments from NPR: "Among Rooney's abiding concerns are the fluctuating power dynamics in relationships. 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. "
I recommend the novel and would be interested in checking into other works of this author. Might try to catch this series on Hulu as well.

Some lines:
Her face lacks definition around the cheeks and jaw. It’s a face like a piece of technology, and her two eyes are cursors blinking.

His figure was like a long elegant line drawn with a brush.

Connell always gets what he wants, and then feels sorry for himself when what he wants doesn’t make him happy.

She has never believed herself fit to be loved by any person. But now she has a new life, of which this is the first moment, and even after many years have passed she will still think: Yes, that was it, the beginning of my life.

Her dress is cut low at the front, showing her pale collarbones like two white hyphens.

To be known as her boyfriend plants him firmly in the social world, establishes him as an acceptable person, someone with a particular status, someone whose conversational silences are thoughtful rather than socially awkward.

It’s like something he assumed was just a painted backdrop all his life has revealed itself to be real: foreign cities are real, and famous artworks, and underground railway systems, and remnants of the Berlin Wall. That’s money, the substance that makes the world real. There’s something so corrupt and sexy about it.

Cherries hang on the dark-green trees like earrings. ( )
  novelcommentary | Jun 5, 2020 |
I’m a sucker for books that are almost entirely about feelings, and this one really delivered. I felt so much for both of the characters. I thought the writer split qualities up between them in a way that made them complement each other believably. Compared with Conversations with Friends, I felt like these characters gained insight throughout, which I found more satisfying. They broke my heart, but grew enough that I felt okay saying goodbye at the end, though it was hard. Can’t wait for her next book. ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
Buzz on this one was strong and high and it was billed as literary fiction which sold me on it. While not poorly written, I'm probably (almost undoubtedly) older than its target audience. I didn't hate it, but I didn't appreciate it either -- thus, the middling rating.

This is a sexual coming-of-age that revolves around a couple who meet as teens in high school when they start hooking up. They hook up, but never make their relationship status official with their families, friends or each other. This goes on and off and then on and off ad nauseum throughout their college years and beyond.

Both characters are wounded-bird types. In high school, he's popular; she isn't. Her family has money; his doesn't. In college, the power balance flips - she's popular; he isn't. Apparently, they're attracted to each other in part because of their shared literary and academic brilliance (eyeroll emoji).

Neither character exhibits strong emotional wellbeing. She particularly has faced serious abuse which affects relationship choices she makes later in which she allows herself to be sexually and physically abused (and in fact, sexual desire and abuse become conflated for her).

The abuse (emotional and physical) first from her family and then from her lovers is made quite clear without being explicit. If anything, it's treated almost too casually - as if it's just a normal, regular thing that one deals with as a teen.

I think it's supposed to feel very modern, mature, and sophisticated. Maybe it does read that way if you're 20. To me, it read more trite and shallow, leaning toward disturbing with the abuse. Not a painful read, but empty calories. ( )
1 vote angiestahl | Jun 1, 2020 |
I’m devastated. I’m fine. I choose to believe that no matter how far the other goes for however long, these two will always come back to each other in the end. So the ending, for me, was a positive one. Connell will come back after a year to Marianne. Or Marianne will go to him. But they will be together again because they have to be. They are ‘two plants sharing the same plot of soil.’ ( )
1 vote tuf25995 | May 31, 2020 |
Normal People is the kind of novel that will polarize readers, particularly along lines of age. If you are young, there is a good chance that you will love it. Its focus on the on-again/off-again relationship between Marianne and Connell has an intensity and emotional authenticity to it that is genuinely engaging.

Nonetheless, I can't help but feel that this novel is also a bit empty. In much the same way that I don't want to return to, say, The Catcher in the Rye, which I loved at 17 but would probably find pretentious if I read it now, so too I feel about the central concerns of Normal People. In short, this is very good, very mature young adult fiction, rather than true literary fiction.

There were moments earlier in the book when I felt that Rooney might transcend that judgment. For instance, there is a passage in which Connell is reading Jane Austen's Emma, a scene from that novel in which Mr. Knightley is preparing to marry Sophie. Connell is obviously a Knightley-like figure throughout the novel, but I felt like Rooney didn't really follow through on this connection. It would have been great, in other words, to have more of a sense of these characters in a historical and intellectual context - instead, they just seemed to float on the surface of postmodern life.

Maybe that is the point, of course, but if so it's an idea that's been done to death in contemporary literature, and that I never found interesting in the first place. The world does not need more detached, bored, and ugly characters such as those provided by Tao Lin or Bret Easton Ellis. That, at least, is one of the more redemptive features of the ending of Normal People. I am so glad that characters were actually able to achieve some sort of intimacy, instead of drifting off into a haze of indifferent nihilism.

Overall, I think Rooney has written a pretty decent novel with the material she has. Nonetheless, I feel like it is held back by its restrictive parameters, its refusal (or inability) to go beyond the bubble of Marianne and Connell's world. ( )
2 vote vernaye | May 23, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 96 (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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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
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JANUARY 2011

Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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