Title: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Blurb: Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there. In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation – awkward but electrifying – something life-changing begins.
Normal People is a story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find they can’t.
Thoughts and Opinions
This book reminded me to text my therapist.
I’m still trying to understand whether or not I admire this book or hate it. I wanted to like it so much, but I just didn’t.
This isn’t romance, I think I need to make that clear straight away. It’s a book about two people meant to hurt eachother. It’s the miscommunication trope over and over again. Connell continues to take and grow from Marianne, whilst she becomes smaller, almost unable to take care of herself or make the right decisions without Connell, as the book progresses. A stark comparaison to how she is originally portrayed.
One of the appraisals on the blurb of my copy is “I quite literally could not put this book down” by Dolly Alderton. I could. I had to force myself to finish this, which I wouldn’t encourage unless you wish to rant about a book from start to finish. To be honest, near the end I was simply glad whenever they had eachother in their lives. They were so hopelessly bad at living otherwise. It made me feel sick; it was just red flag after red flag.
My problem was that these red flags were never adressed. I assume that that is due to the fact that neither of the main characters is fully conscious that they are harming the other and themselves. Although, it would be false to say that Connell was completely unaware.
I have read New Adult before. I’ve read books about abusive relationships before, and thoroughly enjoyed them (the books not the relationships). But this didn’t do it for me, not in the slightest. Maybe it’s because of the way Rooney, in my opinion, neglects Marianne’s character, trauma and development (she deserved better, especially from a female writer). Maybe it’s because she tried to put so many possible triggering/traumatic events to make it seem realistic, to make it seem tragic, whilst neglecting to adress the great majority of them. Or maybe I just didn’t like the story. But this book gave me nothing. Brought me nothing.
Why I didn’t hate it
It is clever. We’re supposed to be repulsed and uncomfortable with the various relationships portrayed. The book ends with the acknowledgment that these toxic cycles tend to continue. It worked, to a certain point.
I want to study politics and history, I would say I’m smart and I am the same age as Marianne is at the beginning of the story. Part of the reason this book made me squirm is that I relate to her character, on many levels. So I will, at least, be able to use her as an example of how not to live my life.
Furthermore, there were phrases, little bits of commentary that struck a cord. Paragraphs that perfectly nailed a certain sentiment, situation, state of being and my god they were beautiful.
As my friend said herself (and she loved this book), Normal People is hard to read because it makes you question whether you will end up like that: reduced to nothing by men who take and take and take, too in love or under their control to ask for anything back.
While I did not enjoy reading this book, I must take it as the piece of art that literature aspires to be.
“There’s always been something inside her that men have wanted to dominate, and their desire for domination can look so much like attraction, even love.”
“Connell said: You know I love you. He didn’t say anything else. She said she loved him too and he nodded and continued driving as if nothing at all had happened, which in a way it hadn’t.”
“Her body is just an item of property, and though it has been handed around and misused in various ways, it has somehow always belonged to him, and she feels like returning it to him now”
I wouldn’t recommend this book, not in the slightest. However, if you intend to, make sure to look up the trigger warnings. Furthermore, don’t feel bad if you don’t finish it.
Have a wonderful week my darlings,