Review: Normal People

Totally worth all the hype

They’ve done a lot of good for each other. Really, she thinks, really. People can really change one another.”

So I’ll start by saying that I know I am late to the party with this one – it seems everyone has already read and reviewed this latest offering from Sally Rooney. I feel like my Instagram has been inundated with images of its front cover and every bookshop I’ve visited has had it prominently displayed. Sometimes books with this much hype inevitably fail to live up to it and I’m always nervous of reading them for this very reason. (Am I the only one who thinks like this?) I need not have worried though because Normal People is every bit as good as everyone says. 

The novel was an easy read. Not only was it short, but the writing style was sharp, witty, relatable and real. It is a book to be devoured in days. Sally Rooney has been hailed as a voice for our modern times, and rightly so. She effortlessly captures the inner workings of her characters, those lies we all tell ourselves and the overwhelming physical and emotional experience of falling in love. 

The novel feels very current but timeless, as though it could be set in any time and will continue to feel relevant for years to come. I’d even be so bold as to claim that it will become a future classic. 

Rooney takes us beyond the traditional tropes of romantic fiction, never allowing the characters to become too swept up in their feelings for one another or somehow overcoming the differences and challenges which make their relationship difficult. You will these two characters to just sort themselves out and get together. 

Normal People tells the story of Marianne and Connor, capturing the highs and lows, the twists and turns of their complex but compelling love. We follow their journey through an end of school fling through to the deepening of their relationship to graduation. 

Basically Marianne and Connor have the kind of bond which we all dream of finding. Rooney manages not to make this feel too cliche or sickly sweet. The characters and their relationship feels very real. Somehow Rooney even manages to play on the trope of poor boy falls for rich, beautiful woman without it feeling contrived. 

One thing which stood out for me throughout the novel was the way power shifted between them. At school Connell is a popular footballer who is too embarrassed to be associated with the loner, “weird” Marrianne. This shifts when they go to university – Marianne is rich, popular and beautiful whilst Connell is only able to find friends through his connection with Marrianne (who enables him to be seen as “Rich-adjacent”). Marrianne has her own issues with control, or rather being controlled, and we, the reader, see her descend into masochism. 

The novel felt quite short and I found myself a little disappointed at the end. The ending itself felt a little rushed and did not leave me completely satisfied. In fact the novel could easily have been much longer, there was so much scope to tell more or Mar and Con’s story. Perhaps I felt like this because I was so drawn to the characters and their complex relationship that I could read about them endlessly. This in itself was interesting as Rooney’s writing style seems devoid of emotion at times. 

The mark of a really good book is that feeling of emptiness you are left with upon finishing. You don’t feel ready to jump in and start reading something else, don’t want to say goodbye to the characters and their story. You want to allow them to live on in your brain for just a little longer, before you fill it with someone else’s tale. And yes I was definitely left with this feeling when I finished Normal People. 

Final Thoughts: If you’re looking for an easy and engrossing read with a little romance then you need to read Normal People. 

Have you read anything lately that made you feel like this? Which book was it? Have you read any Sally Rooney? What do you think about her style?

One thought on “Review: Normal People

  1. dear Charlie, I have this book to read but haven´t done it yet, anyway every review I read (including yours) seem positive, so my expectations are positive for this novel 🙂 it was a pleasure to discover your blog, from now on I´m following you to keep updated on your readings and impressions eheh regards from Lisbon, PedroL


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