Normal People by Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney's second novel is a devastating love story that elevates the mundane to the magnificent

Book Review by Katie Goh | 03 Sep 2018
  • Normal People
Book title: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney

Ever since her first novel, Conversations with Friends, was published, Sally Rooney has been hailed as the next great Irish writer and the novelistic voice of her generation. It’s a lot to live up to, something that she both does and refuses to do with her second novel.

Normal People is a love story between two childhood best friends, Marianne and Connell, taking place from high school to the end of university. Their story is told in snippets – present tense vignettes – each propelling the narrative forward with leaps in time that are both minuscule and epic as the lovers come together and fall apart.

Readers of Conversations with Friends will be familiar with Rooney’s style: passages are largely dedicated to speech with insights into characters’ interiority, more reportage than flowery description. Heartbreak follows heartbreak as the reader is given an insight into the characters’ motivations behind their actions. For writing that is so precise, Rooney crams a lot into Normal People, as issues of class, sexuality, gender and money are all explored in intricate detail, although the book never feels overpacked or rushed.

Normal People is a brilliantly cunning book. Rooney’s narrative voice becomes as familiar as a friend’s text messages as she uses the two central characters to crawl inside our secrets, desires, and anxieties. What makes the novel so brutal is that it’s the most normal, clichéd story of love, crafted by Rooney into a modern-day epic. It’s devastating in its mundanity.

Faber & Faber, out now, £14.99