Normal People is a coming of age tale of two dysfunctional people and their dysfunctional relationship. The story follows Marianne- the rich girl, reserved, outcast, from an abusive family- and Connell- the working class, popular, star student, and athlete. Their unlikely friendship is due to the fact that Connell’s mum is the cleaning lady at Marianne’s house. When they go off to university, they swap their social status so now Marianne is the popular one. Marianne and Connell are together (I think? but it’s not serious? I don’t know) and the next thing we know is Marianne starts dating this douche-bag of a person (that she doesn’t even like?). And Connell is seeing this nice med school student until they break up. Long story short is that Marianne and Connell vacillate in and out of each other lives- which is both frustrating and endearing at times.
Rooney leaves us with an open-ended conclusion but not without a certain redeeming quality. Marianne and Connell have matured enough so that readers are assured that they’ll be just fine.
Yikes! Wasn’t this an intense story? Unputdownable for sure but it left me emotionally marred. Rooney examines classism, the fervor of first love, depression- especially for the first time- and the universal quest to find meaning.
Normal People is replete with miscommunication and misunderstanding. A behavior I’m guilty of and it’s what I like best about this book. It explores why we choose to leave things unsaid and how we look or feel to hide or misconstrue our thoughts and feelings.
🕵 How I Discovered It
I think it’s safe to say Sally Rooney’s books were ubiquitous on book lists especially during the pandemic. And I’m looking forward to reading Conversations with Friends and Beautiful World, Where Are You.
✍️ My Favorite Quotes
”… I am on the floor, he thought. Is life so much worse here than it would be on the bed, or even in a totally different location? No life is exactly the same. Life is the thing you bring with you inside your own head. I might as well be lying here, breathing the vile dust of the carpet into my lungs, gradually feeling my right arm go numb under the weight of my body, because it’s essentially the same as every other possible experience.”
“Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t know if she would ever find out where it was or become part of it.”
“Most people go through their whole lives, without ever really feeling that close with anyone.”
“She closes her eyes. He probably won’t come back, she thinks. Or he will, differently. What they have now they can never have back again. But for her the pain of loneliness will be nothing to the pain that she used to feel, of being unworthy. He brought her goodness like a gift and now it belongs to her. Meanwhile his life opens out before him in all directions at once. They’ve done a lot of good for each other. Really, she thinks, really. People can really change one another. You should go, she says. I’ll always be here. You know that.”