Title: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Genre: Current Lit
Page Count: 273
Publication Date: April 2019
Over the last year, I’ve been seriously eying Sally Rooney’s books. Was it simply because she was an Irish author taking the literary world by storm? Maybe. Nonetheless, as my Bookstagram’s TBR started to grow (there is an undocumented one deep in the crevices of my brain), I realized I was adding her titles without really knowing if I liked her writing style.
So, on my last visit to my local indie bookstore, I went straight over to the R shelf in the fiction section and plopped Normal People onto the top of my purchase pile. I feel that this title is her most critically acclaimed in a societal sense, seeing as it has been adapted into a Hulu series. As I’ve noted in previous posts, I don’t watch book adaptations on Netflix or Hulu until I’ve read the book. Much to my fiance’s amusement, I still refuse to watch The Handmaid’s Tale due to my love of the title–no matter how many times Hulu suggests it to me. I am now also adding Hulu’s Normal People to the no-watch list, but for a different reason.
I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt that I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. It has me reeling. I started Normal People on August 29th and finished it on September 3rd– that’s 6 days. I haven’t absorbed a book this quickly since my prime bookworm days in high school. Yet, I can’t decide if I liked it. Is it possible to be fully engrossed by a novel and still dislike the story? Is that allowed?
There’s a carnal, primitive simplicity to the way Sally Rooney writes. It’s to the point and extremely digestible. I didn’t know it was possible to paint such vivid pictures and create such human connection with matter-a-fact descriptions. Her way of writing is truly artful in its directness and I’m honestly jealous of her skill, seeing as she’s only two years my senior. There’s not much in this world that gives me as much joy as good writing and Sally Rooney IS a good writer.
Now, with that said, this does not mean I liked the story Sally wrote. I don’t like her male protagonist, Connell, in the slightest, and her female protagonist, Marianne, gives me empathetic heartache. Connell is self-absorbed, Marianne is broken, and somehow they’re unable to stay away from each other, no matter how hard they try. I couldn’t turn away from these human train wrecks and their on-again-off-again relationship. I wanted them to learn and grow from each other, which I believe they do, in the end– but the messiness of how human they are and their moments of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again) infuriated me.
There is a brilliance in creating two main characters so flawed that your reader can’t stand them, but also so human and damaged that your reader is rooting for them to figure life out. That’s all Rooney. She made me feel. The feeling might of been frustration and anger a good majority of her 273 pages– but she made me feel something. And that’s powerful.
You can purchase Normal People here if you are interested in reading. I will be reviewing Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery for the month of October, which you can purchase here if you’d like to read along. The review will be up by the end of the month. Stay tuned for this month’s florilegium, coming out this Sunday, October 3rd.