Having now read all three of Sally Rooney’s books, I definitely think Beautiful World, Where Are You is my favorite! Normal People was a bit off for me because I had major trust issues with Connell. Conversations With Friends had more complex relationships and dynamics so that was cool. Beautiful World, Where Are You feels like it’s on another level entirely!
As usual, Sally Rooney’s books are more vibe and character driven than plot driven, which is the same here. The vibes, though, are amped up in compared to the other two books. She goes into this cinematic panning out thing where it feels like you’re moving backward from the people involved in the scene to take in everything around them: the building, the nature/environment around it, the ocean. I love this kind of style, and I didn’t find it in her previous ones.
The structure of this book goes back and forth between Alice and Felix’s undefined relationship to Eileen and Simon’s best friends since childhood, girl next door, friends to lovers trope. In between their two stories, however, are lengthy email interactions between Alice and Eileen. I saw some Goodreads reviews that didn’t like these email exchanges. I found them a great tool for the author to insert her opinions and explorations on matters around her. She had interesting thoughts, presented them in a fascinating manner, and a platform that wants to know more of her philosophy, so why not!
There were a lot of mentions of Russian literature in this book. Being a fan of Russian literature, I have to say that this book even feels like something a modern Dostoevsky would write, with all the philosophical ponderings of the characters.
One topic that surprised me was religion. I seriously would never have expected Sally Rooney to start writing about Mass and Catholicism but there it was: Simon Costigan, one of her characters, is a devout Catholic! It takes a whole lot of courage and maturity for an atheist to view religious activities in a compassionate light, and vice versa. I have to say she did it quite well here, and I am very impressed.
Beautiful World, Where Are You has made me view Sally Rooney as not just an author but also a philosopher and leading thinker. As such, I’d be very interested to read more of her thought explorations via her next books.