Title: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
“No one can be independent of other people completely, so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not.”
So, this book won the Waterstone’s Book of the Year last for 2018 and was long listed for The Man Booker Prize 2018 too, and therefore I was naturally curious about it because some people must really love it for it to win that award. Then in January, everyone voted it to be the Two Amy’s Book Club February read, and I was glad because I wanted to see what all the hype was about. The book centres on Marianne and Connell who both grow up in Ireland; Connell’s mother works as a cleaner for Marianne’s mother, and even though they have that connection, they pretend they don’t know each other at school. Connell is popular and Marianne is a loner, so two people who couldn’t be more different, couldn’t have anything in common, right? Well, after a conversation in Marianne’s kitchen, their lives become intertwined forever. From leaving school to go to university, dealing with family, and navigating relationships, they somehow always end up gravitating back towards each other. But how can the lives of two normal people, become an electrifying and exquisite love story?
The truth is, this book was just very, very boring. I am usually a big lover of books about ordinary people and their ordinary lives, take Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave, or Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, but in order for me to enjoy it, the characters have to be likeable and remarkable in their own ordinary sense. Marianne and Connell were just not that likeable at all, and so I never really cared what happened to them, or where the story was going. Rooney also made the interesting decision not to use speech marks at all; the dialogue, therefore, was very hidden in the rest of the text, which became a little confusing at times. I recently read Cast No Shadow by Brandon Dragan, which had the same lack of speech marks, but it just worked so much better in a novel with more tension because it made the text flow better. However, with a novel whether nothing much happens, it just jarred.
There were a few interesting sub-plots, such as Marianne’s brother, and Connell’s father, but they weren’t ever really focused on, and so the only parts I was vaguely interested it, were never elaborated on enough for me to care. It just never really went anywhere, and although I know that was probably the point of the book (it is called Normal People after all) there’s a reason we don’t just read books about everybody’s everyday lives. There needs to be something, even if it’s not overwhelmingly fascinating, just something that keeps you compelled to stay in the world of the book rather than put it down and come back to reality.
Overall, I’m sure there are loads of people who love this book, and I can understand why the mundanity of the story would attract people to it, but it just wasn’t enough for me. I needed more; more plot, more intrigue, more likability, and because that never came, unfortunately, this book was just not that enjoyable for me to read.
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