In my view Normal People is with Sally’s wonderful debut Conversations with Friends. This is joy to the ears of her fans and for people to still discover her writing, a treat awaits.
In this novel we meet Marianne and Connell who have grown up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, Carricklea. Marianne lives in the big house with her mother and despicable brother Alan, (he really is a nasty person). Connell lives on the local estate with his mother cleaning for Marianne’s family to help make ends meet. When Connell comes to collect his mother an electric connection sparks between the two teenagers.
At school he is popular and well-liked. He is a star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private with very few friends. Although the relationship develops, they ignore each at school. A position he struggles with more than she. Outside school they spend all the time together and their friendship develops.
The story then moves as Marianne and Connell leave school and start university. Once at university the tables turn with Marianne developing a wide social network of friends, enjoying popularity whereas Connell is uncomfortable and not at ease with himself or the situations he finds himself in. As they struggle with their relationship, they fall out with Marianne moving away. But ultimately they cannot let each go.
The parts of the book when they are at university are particularly engaging. Here you feel like Sally Rooney is on home territory. The story is told from alternating voices and this for me really adds to the story. She beautifully develops the characters which makes for an engrossing read. For me I love the way Sally captures and writes her characters in her novels. I also enjoy her description of place in her novels, in this case capturing small town Ireland perfectly. This is a story of teenage love, sex, friendship and passion that I think you’ll love.