March 14, 2020 • Cee • Reviews

Normal People by Sally Rooney • April 16, 2019 • Hogarth Press
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At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.!


First sentence: “Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell.”

It’s a bad sign when you start a book—that everybody you knew was raving about how “dark and gritty” and “psychological” it is—and come out of the first few pages knowing that you won’t like this book and no matter how much you push yourself into reading more, it won’t change your mind. Normal People is that book.

My association of “dark and gritty” and “psychological” seem to be different than the friends and co-workers who keep recommending me this book. The events that happen—which I asked my co-worker to spoil me because I didn’t care—consist of subjects like

What subjects?
BDSM, sexual deviancy, depression, and eating disorders,
which are dark but I don’t feel like it’s an apt descriptor of these tough subject matter.

A few things prevented me from getting on the Normal People train, and it was a lot to do with the way it was written. Normal People feels like it was written as a screenplay, and it somehow turned into a book instead. (Keep in mind, there will be a tv series on this book). The book lacked quotation marks, which I had no issue with, and the narrative was more “tell the story,” instead of “show.” Everything these characters did were robotic—in the sense that it felt like they were completing a list of directional cues than describing and exploring the depths of these characters.

Because of the way it was written, I had a hard time connecting with these characters. Things that happened to them only made me exasperated by how I don’t understand their actions or their words. It’s hard to imagine these as real human beings when they act like very wooden actors reciting what should be emotional lines with no tone. You’re dropped in, as if you’re expected to already know about these characters.

It’s a strange experience when the narrative doesn’t communicate to the reader why these characters do the things they do, despite getting Connell’s and Marianne’s points of views throughout the book. The lack of communication between the two (and mainly to the reader) drove me crazy; it was certainly believable to a certain point, but at times, you realize how lacking these characters are because of how you still don’t really know them—how the self-destruction hadn’t been cultivated well enough to understand the roads that lead to this. Connell and Marianne aren’t treated like real human beings, more like vehicles for these tough things to happen.

Maybe the TV series will do a better job of portraying these characters. I’ll probably give that a chance.

Should you read Normal People? Uhhhhhh, hahaha, no. I wouldn’t recommend this. It’s not for everybody. Maybe wait for the tv series.


One Response to “REVIEW • Wait for the TV Series (Normal People by Sally Rooney)”

  1. Sam@wlabb says:

    I just finished this audiobook today, and though I was often frustrated, I liked it. It was dark. These two had a strange relationship, but I felt invested in them and their future together. You brought up a good point, about not fully understanding why they did the things they did, but it was like a train wreck for me. I couldn’t look away

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