If you haven’t read or watched Normal People yet, what are you waiting for? No really, that’s not a rhetorical question. I’m genuinely wondering what you’re waiting for. It’s truly been one of the most talked-about pieces of work throughout this whole quarantine. For some background, I had actually started this Hulu show without reading the book first, which is truly unheard of for me. Nonetheless, I was super bored and didn’t have the book nearby and just started the show without much thought after seeing it on Snapchat. (Note: I watched with subtitles. Angsty Irish youth are hard for my uncultured American ears apparently.) But after a few episodes, I realized I absolutely had to read the popular book by Sally Rooney (even though it wasn’t initially on my 2020 reading list).
I placed the order on Amazon and Prime did the unthinkable – failing me by not allowing it to arrive within 2 days (*gasp*). Instead, I hopped in the car with my puppy Gemma and took the trip through the boroughs to Brooklyn to pick it up from a friend who had a copy. We returned home around 8PM. The book was finished before work the next morning.
Did this book change my life? No. But it was truly one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and did actually change my perception on the way I think about love stories. I’m always into happy endings. Generic, I know, but it’s usually the “first” love I want to work out. For example, I think Carrie should have ended up with Aiden. It just makes sense! I feel robbed when the two people I think should be together aren’t together on the final page of a novel – or without a whisper of a happy ending in sight. Normal People was one of the first books that changed that for me. It left me wanting for everything, but also wishing for nothing. It’s not necessarily about the #endgame (that I, admittedly, always want to see). It’s about the journey.
The main characters in the book are classmates Connell and Marianne. Marianne comes from a wealthy family in town and Connell’s mother works for them. At school, Connell is very well-liked and popular; whereas Marianne is not so readily accepted. They both have to fight against the status quo to some degree. Connell isn’t the typical “jock;” he hides a more sensitive side to him. Marianne, on the other hand, is not the prim and proper rich girl. She challenges her teachers and speaks her mind even when it’s an unpopular opinion. Despite these differing personalities, Connell and Marianne find something in each other and start a secret relationship without their classmates knowing.
It explores their relationship not only in its unconventional, secretive start but how it changes throughout the years. From the start of high school and throughout college, their relationship ebbs and flows and is anything but expected.
The book resonates with the audience because it shows a different type of love story – a less romanticized version of a love story. It’s not all flowers and sunshine and a guy standing at the end of a rainbow with a big, dramatic gesture of love after some misunderstanding. It doesn’t make love this huge, dramatic event that is nearly unreachable to the average person. Sometimes it’s about having that other person in your life who you love. Who challenges and changes you. The book explores just that in the simplest, yet most captivating of ways.
This is a really excellent book that explores a ton of different raw, gritty topics – like love, sex, depression, abuse, class, self-esteem, friendship. I couldn’t recommend this book more and I can’t wait to read the next book by Sally Rooney. In a review I read of the work by The Atlantic, the writer opened the article by noting how someone once told her the mark of a good book is when you feel the desire to make other people read it. Upon closing the last page of the book, I stuffed it in an envelope and went to the post office to mail it to a friend miles away.