It is hard to comprehend how Sally Rooney has managed to capture the dynamics of a relationship as well as she has in Normal People. Aged just 27, Rooney tells the story of a couple whose relationship is complex, heart-warming and poignant.
Connell and Marianne grew up in a small town, where the two inhabited different classes, both socially and economically. Connell was part of the cool crowd, and his mother cleaned the house of the wealthy but unpopular, Marianne.
From school, the relationship between the two reaches blissful heights and devastating lows as they attend university in Dublin and occasionally return home.
Rooney is clear eyed and insightful as she writes the idiosyncrasies of relationships, and the small misunderstandings that can make them fail.
She also captures social dynamics of school and university; of the change between Connell’s presumed popularity in school, which is not enough when he encounters people that don’t take his reputation as a ‘good guy’ for granted. Marianne, on the other hand, thrives in this new place where her character is appreciated in a way it never was at school.
The book also touches on violence and power, within families and in communities. There is a constant and changing play of power, with the weak at times becoming the strong and vice versa.
This book is everything that I hoped it would be – honest, witty and incredibly perceptive. Read it!