Sally Rooney: a Refreshing Take on Relationships in Normal People


Two damaged people who long for nothing more than to be normal navigate the highs and lows of a relationship. Normal People is emotionally draining in the best way possible. Engrossing, provocative, and honest, Sally Rooney’s Normal People dissects characters’ thoughts, feelings, and uncertainty for the future.

With every chapter jumping ahead in time, we follow two characters: Marriane, the social outcast, who is considered strange and daring because she is smarter than everyone and Connell, who is athletic, popular, and cares about how others perceive him. The two become acquainted when Connell’s mom starts to work as a housekeeper in Marriane’s house. A secret relationship forms between them while in school, but it comes to a halt once they begin University. They start to face dark, daunting barriers which cause them to spiral in different directions. It’s only when they are together that they can face themselves and the world around them.

The narrative is told through the inner workings of Marianne and Connell’s minds. The reader is exposed to their thoughts, feelings and secrets. The characters are not perfect. They are flawed, which is why they seemed much more real. Connell has image issues and insecurities, while Marianne is too in her head. The relationship dynamic and the effect both of them have on each other is what makes this book so well done. When together, Marianne and Connell can be their true selves, showing their personalities that complement each other.

Rooney carefully wrote and structured this book, showing real people with insecurities and miscommunication in a way that feels painfully true. Rooney brings tension, and emotion through the simplest of scenes. She captures the full effect of a shrug, look, or nod through the characters. Rooney masters the spectrum of emotions. I went through a roller coaster of feelings while reading this book; I was angry, depressed, and happy at times.

I recommend this book to anyone who is prepared for the slow and sad realness of relationships. Be prepared to get your heart ripped out several times then replaced back carefully as you read. Though Normal People is not a perfect, happy love story, you are sure to fall in love with the characters and their life. This book was a true gem of a story with endless depth.