Book of The Week: Normal People by Sally Rooney


Courtesy of Sneha Beri

Normal People by Sally Rooney is worthy of your to-read list.

Sneha Beri, Staff Writer

I’ve had this draft open for days, trying to figure out how to do Normal People justice. At just under 240 pages, this is one of the shorter books I’ve read over the last few years, but it took me the longest time to read. It’s not full of convoluted language or messy plots; it’s beauty lies in its simplicity. That simplicity, ironically, is what gives the book more emotional weight than anything I’ve read before. I would get through three chapters a day at most, then I’d have to put it down for the next couple of days to sit in what I’d just read.

Normal People follows its main characters, Marianne and Connell, from high school into college and early adulthood. The chapters show the ebb and flow of their relationship, the constant love each person has for the other. Sometimes, the love manifests in an actual physical or romantic relationship, and other times it is shown through fleeting stares after weeks of silence, drives back home from the grocery store, or long emails sent during study abroad. The actual weight of Marianne and Connell’s love for each other sometimes grows to be unbearable for both of them; readers often find that neither character is willing to admit how deeply they feel about each other, no matter how often they find themselves in a room together.

Sally Rooney has created a simple but stirring portrait of not only Marianne and Connell, but the very human fears that come with loving and being loved. Normal People is full of moments that stop readers in their tracks and force them to contemplate the most beautiful and ugliest parts of perceiving and being perceived through the lens of love. 

Normal People is not a fairytale, nor is it the bearer of lofty ideals; it is a presentation of two flawed, realistic human beings who share an unwittingly intense love. 

Picking up a copy of Normal People is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Despite its length, it’s best enjoyed over multiple sittings. Marianne and Connell are easy to get to know, and you will find yourself getting frustrated with them just as you would a friend. The two of them are me, they are you; they are all of us.

I especially recommend Normal People to fans of Taylor Swift’s “’tis the damn season.” Marianne does think that “the road not taken looks real good now” and it does always lead back to Connell in their hometown. The true brilliance of Normal People comes from the distinct characterization that still lends itself to relatability. 

If you have the option to select between covers, pick the one that illustrates Marianne and Connell in a sardine tin. It’s nice to gaze at lovingly after you close the book because you feel like you can’t read any more for the day.