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Normal People: A Novel Kindle Edition
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From the Publisher
“A future classic.”—The Guardian
“Rooney is a tough girl; her papercut-sharp sensibility is much more akin to writers like Rachel Kushner, Mary Gaitskill, and the pre–Manhattan Beach Jennifer Egan. . . . Normal People is a nuanced and flinty love story about two young people who ‘get’ each other, despite class differences and the interference of their own vigorous personal demons. But honestly, Sally Rooney could write a novel about bath mats and I’d still read it. She’s that good and that singular a writer.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“[Rooney] has written two fresh and accessible novels. . . . There is so much to say about Rooney’s fiction—in my experience, when people who’ve read her meet they tend to peel off into corners to talk.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“[Rooney’s] two carefully observed and gentle comedies of manners . . . are tender portraits of Irish college students. . . . Remarkably precise—she captures meticulously the way a generation raised on social data thinks and talks.”—New York Review of Books
“Normal People tackles millennial concerns with nineteenth-century wit . . . the millennial generation would no doubt be happy to accept her as its spokesperson were she so inclined.”—Elle
“I’m transfixed by the way Rooney works, and I’m hardly the only one . . . like any confident couturier, she’s slicing the free flow of words into the perfect shape. . . . She writes about tricky commonplace things (text messages, sex) with a familiarity no one else has.”—The Paris Review
“Funny and intellectually agile . . . [combines] deft social observation—especially of shifts of power between individuals and groups—with acute feeling . . . [Rooney is] a master of the kind of millennial deadpan that appears to skewer a whole life and personality in a sentence or two.”—Harper’s Magazine
“Beautifully observed . . . crackles with vivid insight into what it means to be young and in love today.”—Esquire
“I went into a tunnel with this book and didn’t want to come out. Absolutely engrossing and surprisingly heart-breaking with more depth, subtlety, and insight than any one novel deserves. Young love is a subject of much scorn, but Rooney understands the cataclysmic effects our youth has on the people we become. She has restored not only love’s dignity, but also its significance.”—Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter
“Masterfully done. The quality of Rooney’s writing, particularly in the psychologically wrought sex scenes, cannot be understated as she brilliantly provides a window into her protagonists’ true selves.”—BookPage (starred review)
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell. She’s still wearing her school uniform, but she’s taken off the sweater, so it’s just the blouse and skirt, and she has no shoes on, only tights.
Oh, hey, he says.
Come on in.
She turns and walks down the hall. He follows her, closing the door behind him. Down a few steps in the kitchen, his mother Lorraine is peeling off a pair of rubber gloves. Marianne hops onto the countertop and picks up an open jar of chocolate spread, in which she has left a teaspoon.
Marianne was telling me you got your mock results today, Lorraine says.
We got English back, he says. They come back separately. Do you want to head on?
Lorraine folds the rubber gloves up neatly and replaces them below the sink. Then she starts unclipping her hair. To Connell this seems like something she could accomplish in the car.
And I hear you did very well, she says.
He was top of the class, says Marianne.
Right, Connell says. Marianne did pretty good too. Can we go?
Lorraine pauses in the untying of her apron.
I didn’t realize we were in a rush, she says.
He puts his hands in his pockets and suppresses an irritable sigh, but suppresses it with an audible intake of breath, so that it still sounds like a sigh.
I just have to pop up and take a load out of the dryer, says Lorraine. And then we’ll be off. Okay?
He says nothing, merely hanging his head while Lorraine leaves the room.
Do you want some of this? Marianne says.
She’s holding out the jar of chocolate spread. He presses his hands down slightly further into his pockets, as if trying to store his entire body in his pockets all at once.
No, thanks, he says.
Did you get your French results today?
He puts his back against the fridge and watches her lick the spoon. In school he and Marianne affect not to know each other. People know that Marianne lives in the white mansion with the driveway and that Connell’s mother is a cleaner, but no one knows of the special relationship between these facts.
I got an A1, he says. What did you get in German?
An A1, she says. Are you bragging?
You’re going to get six hundred, are you?
She shrugs. You probably will, she says.
Well, you’re smarter than me.
Don’t feel bad. I’m smarter than everyone.
Marianne is grinning now. She exercises an open contempt for people in school. She has no friends and spends her lunchtimes alone reading novels. A lot of people really hate her. Her father died when she was thirteen and Connell has heard she has a mental illness now or something. It’s true she is the smartest person in school. He dreads being left alone with her like this, but he also finds himself fantasizing about things he could say to impress her.
You’re not top of the class in English, he points out.
She licks her teeth, unconcerned.
Maybe you should give me grinds, Connell, she says.
He feels his ears get hot. She’s probably just being glib and not suggestive, but if she is being suggestive it’s only to degrade him by association, since she is considered an object of disgust. She wears ugly thick-soled flat shoes and doesn’t put makeup on her face. People have said she doesn’t shave her legs or anything. Connell once heard that she spilled chocolate ice cream on herself in the school lunchroom, and she went to the girls’ bathrooms and took her blouse off to wash it in the sink. That’s a popular story about her, everyone has heard it. If she wanted, she could make a big show of saying hello to Connell in school. See you this afternoon, she could say, in front of everyone. Undoubtedly it would put him in an awkward position, which is the kind of thing she usually seems to enjoy. But she has never done it.
What were you talking to Miss Neary about today? says Marianne.
Oh. Nothing. I don’t know. Exams.
Marianne twists the spoon around inside the jar.
Does she fancy you or something? Marianne says.
Connell watches her moving the spoon. His ears still feel very hot.
Why do you say that? he says.
God, you’re not having an affair with her, are you?
Obviously not. Do you think it’s funny joking about that?
Sorry, says Marianne.
She has a focused expression, like she’s looking through his eyes into the back of his head.
You’re right, it’s not funny, she says. I’m sorry.
He nods, looks around the room for a bit, digs the toe of his shoe into a groove between the tiles.
Sometimes I feel like she does act kind of weird around me, he says. But I wouldn’t say that to people or anything.
Even in class I think she’s very flirtatious toward you.
Do you really think that?
Marianne nods. He rubs at his neck. Miss Neary teaches Economics. His supposed feelings for her are widely discussed in school. Some people are even saying that he tried to add her on Facebook, which he didn’t and would never do. Actually he doesn’t do or say anything to her, he just sits there quietly while she does and says things to him. She keeps him back after class sometimes to talk about his life direction, and once she actually touched the knot of his school tie. He can’t tell people about the way she acts because they’ll think he’s trying to brag about it. In class he feels too embarrassed and annoyed to concentrate on the lesson, he just sits there staring at the textbook until the bar graphs start to blur.
People are always going on at me that I fancy her or whatever, he says. But I actually don’t, at all. I mean, you don’t think I’m playing into it when she acts like that, do you?
Not that I’ve seen.
He wipes his palms down on his school shirt unthinkingly. Everyone is so convinced of his attraction to Miss Neary that sometimes he starts to doubt his own instincts about it. What if, at some level above or below his own perception, he does actually desire her? He doesn’t even really know what desire is supposed to feel like. Any time he has had sex in real life, he has found it so stressful as to be largely unpleasant, leading him to suspect that there’s something wrong with him, that he’s unable to be intimate with women, that he’s somehow developmentally impaired. He lies there afterward and thinks: I hated that so much that I feel sick. Is that just the way he is? Is the nausea he feels when Miss Neary leans over his desk actually his way of experiencing a sexual thrill? How would he know?
I could go to Mr. Lyons for you if you want, says Marianne. I won’t say you told me anything, I’ll just say I noticed it myself.
Jesus, no. Definitely not. Don’t say anything about it to anyone, okay?
Okay, all right.
He looks at her to confirm she’s being serious, and then nods.
It’s not your fault she acts like that with you, says Marianne. You’re not doing anything wrong.
Quietly he says: Why does everyone else think I fancy her, then?
Maybe because you blush a lot when she talks to you. But you know, you blush at everything, you just have that complexion.
He gives a short, unhappy laugh. Thanks, he says.
Well, you do.
Yeah, I’m aware.
You’re blushing now actually, says Marianne.
He closes his eyes, pushes his tongue against the roof of his mouth. He can hear Marianne laughing.
Why do you have to be so harsh on people? he says.
I’m not being harsh. I don’t care if you’re blushing, I won’t tell anyone.
Just because you won’t tell people doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want.
Okay, she says. Sorry.
He turns and looks out the window at the garden. Really the garden is more like “grounds.” It includes a tennis court and a large stone statue in the shape of a woman. He looks out at the “grounds” and moves his face close to the cool breath of the glass. When people tell that story about Marianne washing her blouse in the sink, they act like it’s just funny, but Connell thinks the real purpose of the story is something else. Marianne has never been with anyone in school, no one has ever seen her undressed, no one even knows if she likes boys or girls, she won’t tell anyone. People resent that about her, and Connell thinks that’s why they tell the story, as a way of gawking at something they’re not allowed to see.
I don’t want to get into a fight with you, she says.--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- File Size : 1579 KB
- Publication Date : April 16, 2019
- Print Length : 279 pages
- Publisher : Hogarth (April 16, 2019)
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Not Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
- Page Numbers Source ISBN : 1984822179
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B07FS25XTW
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,071 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I thought a great deal about that night as I read Sally Rooney’s novel, Normal People last week. Normal People tells the story about Marianne and Connell’s relationship, which begins when they’re at school in a small town in West Ireland and continues – on and off – for another four years while they’re at college in Dublin. It’s a tale with so many layers that, while my experience of reading it bordered on compulsive, I find it difficult to analyse – suffice to say that it’s not about the plot; it’s about the characters and their inner lives, and the writing.
Rooney, who is 27-years-old, is widely feted as the next best thing, “one of the most exciting voices to emerge in an already crackerjack new generation of Irish writers”, and a “Salinger for the Snapchat generation”. I don’t dispute the praise. Her writing is extraordinarily elegant. Confident and uncluttered, it conveys an immediacy and ingenuousness that drew me in and held me from beginning to end, which came too soon. The story, I felt – shocked to discover I'd reached the final full stop – was unfinished, there were loose ends to tuck away. But, once I recovered, I realised the way it ends is part of its magic. Real relationships are forever evolving, eternally incomplete, and so it figures that a novel about relationships will be too.
Normal People is told from both Marianne’s and Connell’s points of view. It reminded me how, no matter how well you think you know a person, your perceptions and understanding of what they say and mean can be skewed. The novel also shows how our identity, self-esteem and who we become as adults are bound to our upbringing – indefinitely. Marianne is from a wealthy, but unloving and dysfunctional family. Connell is from a poor, but loving family. It largely shapes who they are and how they relate to the world. The novel also examines the impact of bullying – both on victims and perpetrators.
Ironically, I might not find the book easy to analyse, but I could go on forever, waffling about the many layers in Normal People. I daren’t though because then you might not feel compelled to read the book yourself, which would be a pity. A huge pity. Here’s a tiny sample of the writing to demonstrate what a humungous pity it would be:
“Helen has given Connell a new way to live. It’s as if an impossibly heavy lid has been lifted off his emotional life and suddenly he can breathe fresh air. It is physically possible to type and send a message reading: I love you! It had never seemed possible before, not remotely, but in fact it’s easy. Of course if someone saw the messages he would be embarrassed, but he knows now that this is a normal kind of embarrassment, an almost protective impulse towards a particularly good part of life. He can sit down to dinner with Helen’s parents, he can accompany her to her friends’ parties, he can tolerate the smiling and the exchange of repetitive conversation. He can squeeze her hand while people ask him questions about his future. When she touches him spontaneously, applying a little pressure to his arm, or even reaching to brush a piece of lint off his collar, he feels a rush of pride, and hopes that people are watching them. To be known as her boyfriend plants him firmly in the social world, establishes him as an acceptable person, someone with a particular status, someone whose conversational silences are thoughtful rather than socially awkward."
I’m not sure I feel changed after reading Normal People, but I do feel upgraded. And reminded about how life is a series of relationships, and how a few of them help shape who we are and how we live our lives. And that thinking about that and acknowledging those who positively influence us is important. And yes, Sally Rooney has a fan in me. My current read is her first novel, Conversations with Friends.
Top reviews from other countries
The Guardian praised it as "a future classic".
Elif Batuman, author of my favourite "The Idiot" said: "I couldn't put "Normal People" down - I didn't think I could love it as much as "Conversations with Friends", but I did. Sally Rooney is a treasure. I can't wait to see what she does next."
For me it was a no (a NO!!!). I'm feeling tired just thinking about explaining myself and the annoyance, disappointment and... almost hurt I experienced while reading "Normal People". I want my money back!
Throughout the book I kept thinking why, why is this not working for me? Why I'm becoming more and more annoyed? Why don't I care? Why?? Maybe because I am no longer a target audience of the book.
Nice enough writing and observations but somewhat dull and infantile. The very notion of the two people, seemingly perfect for each other, ruining each other's lives over and over again drove me mad. It became repetitive, then it became boring. I just could not stand reading about on-off relationship of these young damaged adults while such important matters like domestic abuse, depression and mental health in general were hugely overlooked.
I really cannot see why the novel made it to the Man Booker Prize longlist. And yes, perhaps it's not a one star book but at this point, this is what I feel.
You know what I reminded me of? Rupi Kaur and her poetry.
First up: UGH PUNCTUATION. I hate this no-quotation-marks style. Hated it when Cormac McCarthy used it, hate it now. I know it's a stylistic thing, but... well, I guess I'll just say it's not a style I like.
Normal People is a story of abuse. It's the story of Marianne who goes from terrible relationship to terrible relationship and allows herself to be abused because it's all she's ever known. In a way, it's gripping because you just want Marianne to get out of this, get out of all this crap she's living with, but she just goes from bad to worse. Everything in her life is tied around Connell and his acceptance/rejection of her, and it's ridiculous because even though he doesn't actually hit her or anything, it's obvious (to me, at least) that he's an oblivious idiot who is obviously using Marianne for his own benefit. It's not to say that she didn't get anything out of it--she did--but if this is what relationships are like in the 21st century, I'm glad I'm not in one. Maybe I'm too prudish for this book. Marianne has a warped idea of "submission" and part of the story veers into something BDSM-like relationships, except Marianne did not seem to like it very much, even if she somehow craved it.
On the other side, it also explores Connell's anxiety and depression, and how desperately he needs Marianne in his life to make him feel normal and in control, even though he's seeing/dating other people. It's just... messed up.
The shifting timelines--each chapter jumps a few months, and then hops back a little to cover important missed events--was sometimes a little confusing. The constant segueing between present tense and past tense feels fluid at times, but awkward at times. Maybe I'm not a very close reader but with all the jumps, it gives the book a very floating/fluid feel, and I sometimes don't really know when it is anymore.
All in all, Normal People is a dark, stark look at relationships and youth in Ireland.
I guess the writing is good and all, I just didn't like the subject matter very much.
It is clearly written by a young person with little life experience and it lacks depth. I didn't feel that the characters were "real" and didn't really care what happened to them.
I'm sorry to write such a poor review and I'm sure that Sally Rooney will develop as a writer and produce some better work.