Sally Rooney’s Normal People is a peculiar but touching coming-of-age of polar-opposite classmates Connell and Marianne with an inexplicable attraction to one another over the years.
Connell is a likable young man. On the football team and with several close friends, he could be considered popular. Marianne is a self-created outcast. She doesn’t care to interact with her classmates and couldn’t care less what they think of her.
Connell’s mother works for Marianne’s family, and so Connell spends time at her house. Gradually, he begins to understand her in a way that none of his friends could. Both are intellectual and care about literature, and together they can be completely themselves. Their growing connection is kept secret on the insistence of Connell, who knows his friends wouldn’t approve.
As the pair grow, graduating from secondary school and making their way through college, their relationship constantly fluctuates and changes. Each has scorned the other, but they always find their way back together.
Normal People is an exploration of the lives and relationships of, well… normal people. Miscommunication, differing wants and needs, disappointment, and growing up to be someone that you didn’t expect yourself to be – this is an honest coming-of-age.
Please take caution while reading Normal People if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Sexual assault
- Mental illness
Normal People is a beautifully bare novel. It follows a refreshingly honest relationship – one with communication issues, with doubts and pain and taboo topics. So often, relationships – sexual or otherwise – are written in a way that is unreachable to the reader. But Connell and Marianne are your next-door neighbors, your childhood friend, your college freshman roommate – real people with real struggles and real desires.
The writing is so unique and very simple – nothing is added that isn’t explicitly required for the reader to follow the story. No quotation marks, descriptions of scenery, or any other frills that could take away from the real life at hand. This bare-bones writing approach forces the reader to focus intently on the story. While it may be an acquired tasted, I really appreciated it and the reasonable challenges it presented.
Connell and Marianne’s characters were well-developed through a great deal of organic dialogue. Because their relationship is marked by total honesty, the reader gets to know them very quickly. Sexuality is a major theme in this book, and it is discussed with a candor that isn’t easy to come by.
I really enjoyed getting to know Connell and Marianne and follow them through some of the most tumultuous and formidable years of their lives. The story is so honest and the writing wonderfully unique. If you’re up for something a bit more strange – and honest – than the average book, I highly recommend Normal People!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Normal People. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!