Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People

“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.”

This book was massively hyped a couple of years ago – but friends gave it a really mixed set of reviews, so I never bothered reading it.  Then it was hyped again after the BBC dramatised it (which I still haven’t watched – my husband and I tend to watch TV together, and I’m not sure it would be his bag at all!) and I was more tempted to read it.

My lovely sister knew I was having a tough week (who isn’t during lockdown?) and so really kindly sent me a Don’t Buy Her Flowers book package containing Normal People (and G&Ts, chocolate buttons and crisps!) – so I could read it at last!

I’d forgotten that someone had told me before that it didn’t have proper punctuation – no speech marks etc – and I initially found that a bit confusing, but I soon got into the swing of it.

It starts with Marianne and Connell at school – him Mr Popular, her Miss Outsider.  Connell’s Mum works as a cleaner for Marianne’s family – and they strike up an unlikely friendship – but no one at school knows about it.

It then follows their ‘first love’ through University in Dublin where the roles are somewhat reversed.

Throughout the time period they are on and off, friends, lovers, friends again.  They each have other relationships but are continually drawn back to each other.

Initially I enjoyed it – but then it seemed to not really go anywhere.  It just seemed to meander about – from rural Ireland to Dublin, a bit in Italy,  a bit in Sweden, back to Ireland – but with no real storyline apart from their “can’t live with each other / can’t live without each other” relationship.

Marianne’s relationship with her family is awful, and you can see how it’s made her into the person she’s become – and at many points I wanted to shake her and Connell and tell them just to bloody talk to each other properly.

Maybe I’m just too old to remember back to these teenage romance times??

All in all – not worth the hype and awards in my humble opinion! Not awful – but not this amazing experience that some people seem to have had reading it.

Now to decide whether to watch it or not? The general consensus appears to be that Connell is HOT (although I’m slightly concerned I’m old enough to be his mother?!) but having not loved the book – not sure I can be bothered with the series.  Am I making a mistake?  Will I regret it?  #dontbelievethehype