For this book club, we decided to read Normal People by Sally Rooney. Unless you have been living under a rock, it’s safe to say that almost everyone has heard about Normal People, whether from reading the book or thanks to the BBC adaptation of this book. I was the latter, only hearing about this book thanks to all the many, many rave reviews of the BBC drama. With a lot more time on my hands (like all of us), I decided to use this time to sit down and watch the show. I actually finished the show in one day, so safe to say I loved it!
Vanille suggested we read the book for our return to (virtual) book club catch ups, after I had watched the show I was still excited to see the beautiful story play out on the page. Much like the show, I read the book in one day. It’s just one of those lovely books that you don’t want to put down. Not because you have cliff hangers at every chapter, but simply because Rooney has created this world and this intimacy between the two characters that just makes you want to see what’s next for them.
The book has two main characters Marianne and Connell. We meet them as students in school, with the two leading very different social lives in and out of school. Connell has a young single mother, who seems often more like a friend to him, he’s popular, good looking and incredibly intelligent. Marianne lives with her mother and brother (her father having passed away), though living in a mansion, Marianne lives quite a lonely life. Her family treat her unfairly and at school she is very much an outsider.
Marianne and Connell share intelligence, both at the top of the class in school. They are connected outside of this as well, as Connell’s mother works for Marianne’s family as a cleaner. This means that on occasion the my interact outside of school. After coming to pick up his mum from work, we see the beginning of this relationship between the two.
This book takes us on a journey, seeing both the perspective of Marianne and Connell in turn. We see their relationship from both sides, which is rare in love stories. Vanille and I discussed whether we felt more empathy for Marianne or for Connell, going back and forth throughout. I will say that the BBC show does somewhat make you more of a Marianne fan. But having read the book and understanding Cornell’s own struggles, ultimately we can agree they are both flawed and both misunderstood.
This story really touched me. Watching it onscreen I felt so connected to the characters, rooting for them, crying with them and enjoying a beautiful, complicated and realistic look at young love, as well as the chaotic time in your life of figuring out who you are. Reading the book was no different. I cried more than once, and I honestly couldn’t put it down. I always love a great love story, and this one really got me. Because it’s not a perfect love, it’s messy, hard work, frustrating and filled with many ups and downs, it’s true to life.
I enjoy having the perspective of both characters, and I also enjoy that we see them throughout the years. I will say that I almost wish the book was longer, it would have been nice to see more of the characters. At times it felt a little rushed, but I suppose this was an intentional choice, perhaps to show how quick things can change.
Sally Rooney created a wonderful world between Marianne and Connell; one I find myself wanting to go back to already. This story will stay in my mind for a long time. It is a lesson to us all, and I loved falling in deep to this story and falling in love with Marianne and Connell.
*Although this is a book review. I will say the two actors in the show played these characters beautifully.
Book rating – 9/10
Recommend – Yes!
Read again – Definitely