- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Hogarth; Later Printing edition (April 16, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1984822179
- ISBN-13: 978-1984822178
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 207 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Normal People: A Novel Hardcover – April 16, 2019
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From the Publisher
“[Rooney] has invented a sensibility entirely of her own: sunny and sharp, free of artifice but overflowing with wisdom and intensity. . . . The novel touches on class, politics, and power dynamics and brims with the sparky, witty conversation that Rooney’s fans will recognize.”—Vogue
“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)
About the Author
Sally Rooney was born in the west of Ireland in 1991. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Granta and The London Review of Books. Winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 2017, she is the author of Conversations with Friends and the editor of the Irish literary journal The Stinging Fly.
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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.
The novel is a character study of the two, a dissection of the very meaning of love, an observation of how quickly things change and how difficult it is for things to come together. The reader can see that Marianne and Connell are good for each other but they keep getting in their own way with absurd quarrels and even more absurd other partners. Consider this line about Connell: “He and Marianne are like figure-skaters, improvising their discussions so adeptly and in such perfect synchronization that it surprises them both.” The novel is filled with little gems like that, each succinctly revealing a little more about these (it appears) star-crossed lovers.
As in her sublime Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney does not shy away from the truth of her characters or whitewash her scenes. Marianne willingly lets – even encourages – Connell to explore her body, only to sense his shame in letting his school chums know that they are “an item.” Marianne excels at Trinity College in Dublin where Connell is the quaint working-class scholarship case
And there continues to be a danse a deux – coming together, pulling apart, almost making it, crashing away, and on and on it goes. We root for these characters, we want them to be happy and we often sigh as they don’t see the forest for the trees. From this point forward, I’ll read anything that Sally Rooney writes.