Normal People by Sally Rooney / ★★★★★
Summary: Connell and Marianne both grow up in the same town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. But they both get places to study at university in Dublin, and a connection that has grown between them despite the social tangle of school lasts long into the following years.
How strange to feel herself so completely under the control of another person, but also how ordinary. No one can be independent of other people completely, so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not.
This book was an addictive journey of a relationship between two people who can never seem to get it “right.” Normal People centers around the Connell and Marianne and the push and pull dynamic they have with one another, exploring them together, and apart.
This book felt a bit like a train wreck I couldn’t look away from. It’s one of those books you hope for the best from but know you have to expect the worst, and while this book could, at times, be sweet, I wouldn’t classify it as romantic, but an exploration of human nature, social pressures, and gender dynamics. It was very…raw, and emotional, but always seemed to cut itself off right before it became too much, which I think is the true cornerstone of this novel.
The structure of this book was really well done, too. Normal People spans about four years, jumping ahead four months, three weeks, seven months, two months, per chapter. We watch Connell and Marianne go from high school through university, and how the way the social dynamics around them forces them – or allows them – to change. This book doesn’t beat around the bush- it’s straightforward, but clever and subtle just when you’re really hoping one of them will take action. It’s frustrating, sometimes gratifying, but mostly just intriguing. This book was an addicting read, and if you enjoy character driven books, I’d definitely give this one a try.