After reading Conversations with Friends, I picked up Normal People. At this point, I can safely say I have Sally Rooney fever. This review has SPOILERS (if you can even call it spoilers) because there isn’t much of a plot LOL.
Like I said, not much of a plot. Just two people with issues weaving in and out of each other’s lives, sometimes gorgeously, sometimes devastatingly. Despite the lack of plot though, I simply could not put it down.
Okay, this I can expand on a bit. I found the way Connell was portrayed in the book made me feel very uncomfortable with this guy. Honest. Because the book format shows us everything that’s going on in his head, I find myself being scared of him! It all started when we find out Connell is the type to say things without really meaning them or thinking about the consequences beforehand, which makes him highly untrustworthy.
Then for him to have thoughts of hitting Marianne (red flags for me). In the end, he still did something huge without telling her. Connell grew up a little bit when he stood up to Alan (Marianne’s abusive brother) but other than that I have to say the whole time I feel like this guy is volatile and at any time might change his mind so it’s best to just keep a FAR DISTANCE.
As for Marianne, I didn’t mind her character, although it kind of bugged me that Sally Rooney seemed to be implying Marianne liked BDSM because she was so abused her whole life. I think this shines a poor light on the spirit of BDSM. What annoyed me (even more than the lack of quotation marks!) was how the author wrote in such a way to make other girls around her really dislike her. A lot of “pick me” attitude which is not directly from Marianne, but again, implied in the writing.
The other side characters with exception of Lorraine (Connell’s mom) fell flat and cartoonish, something which was really too bad since it made them unrealistic. Lorraine is a lifesaver though because it’s thanks to Lorraine’s parenting that Connell came around in the end.
Hear this, I loved the ending because it was so consistent with their whole relationship. They had communication problems the whole time and even to the end (insert bitter evil laugh). Connell couldn’t decide what he wanted and what he had to give up or trade-off to get what he wanted, even till the last pages. Though it’s probably unsatisfying for a lot of readers, to me, the turn of events completely made SENSE. And feeling what I feel about Connell, if I was Marianne, I’d probably do the same thing (tell him to kindly stay on the other side of the ocean)!
I thought Marianne made some major growth, finally being at peace with herself. Although I didn’t like how she got there – basically Connell had to save her. Really? If he wasn’t there she’d never be able to save herself (or find a better savior)? Eh, I’m disappointed.
In conclusion, I finished Normal People with mixed feelings. I find myself liking Conversations with Friends better than Normal People, but I really couldn’t stop reading both of the books. Because of that, I’m looking forward to discovering Beautiful World, Where Are You. I also suspect Marianne and Connell’s “love story” (or not-love story?) will play out a bit better on screen, so I’m looking forward to watching the TV show!