Why Our Staff Love Normal People:
Irish author Sally Rooney dazzled readers worldwide last year with her brilliant debut Conversations With Friends, but the cool ease with which she has produced her second book shows an author more determined to write good prose and lots of it than to prove herself as a standout literary talent. Rooney’s talent doesn’t need proving though - her beautiful new book Normal People speaks for itself.
Normal People begins quietly enough in the small Irish town of Sligo, where Marianne lives with her family in a mansion and Connell is the son of the woman who cleans it. What starts out as tentative flirting between them grows into an on-and-off relationship that can never seem to shake off the shackles of teenage insecurity, even as they leave Sligo for student life in Trinity College, Dublin. Connell’s self-consciousness about his working-class background and the psychological fallout of Marianne’s oppressive childhood colour their relationship well into their college years as they drift together and apart in a cycle that’s dysfunctional yet somehow totally self-affirming. This is an intense and complicated love story, but Rooney is an exceptional writer who explores Marianne and Connell’s relationship with incredible delicacy. Her characters are so richly drawn that you feel their emotions as if they were your own.
I simply cannot get this book out of my head, but nor do I want to - it really is just that good.
The feverishly anticipated second novel from the young author of 2017's most acclaimed debut Conversations with Friends. 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.
Reviewed by Robert at Angus & Robertson:
The Life to Come is a series of mini-narratives entwined to produce a rich and colourful tapestry. Like in her 2012 MIles Franklin Award-winning novel Questions of Travel, there is no dominant narrative arc here - it is the details that make up the whole. Those expecting a grand plot may be confounded at first, but if you let yourself go with the novel's small episodes, a more valuable picture emerges. This novel delves into the stories we tell both others and ourselves. It explores how we make excuses for our bad behaviour and highlight our aspirations, always with our best times and deeds just before us, in the life to come. Ultimately, De Kretser highlights how we are the heroes of our own stories.
It is mostly set in Inner West Sydney, in a world of politically aware creatives who are forever bumping against each other. Each of her characters is a kind of vignette, carrying defined ideas of who they are and where they are going. Some have cast themselves as grand writers, charitable neighbours, or great liberal supporters of refugees and the marginalised. These ideals are soon revealed as the hypocritical constructs they are, with De Kretser deftly pinning each one to the board with glorious wit - her character observations are so acute that you are often left breathless. Read More