Summary and book reviews of Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People

by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney X
Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2019, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A wondrous and wise coming-of-age love story from the celebrated author of Conversations with Friends

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He's popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne's house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers - one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they're both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

January 2011

Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell. She's still wearing her school uniform, but she's taken off the sweater, so it's just the blouse and skirt, and she has no shoes on, only tights.

Oh, hey, he says.

Come on in.

She turns and walks down the hall. He follows her, closing the door behind him. Down a few steps in the kitchen, his mother Lorraine is peeling off a pair of rubber gloves. Marianne hops onto the countertop and picks up an open jar of chocolate spread, in which she has left a teaspoon.

Marianne was telling me you got your mock results today, Lorraine says.

We got English back, he says. They come back separately. Do you want to head on?

Lorraine folds the rubber gloves up neatly and replaces them below the sink. Then she starts unclipping her hair. To Connell this seems like something she could accomplish in the car.

And I hear you did very well, she says.

He was top of the class, says Marianne.

Right, Connell says. Marianne did pretty good too. Can we go...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

    Costa Book Awards
    2018

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Sally Rooney is 27 years old. Her thirst for dialogue and her canny wit has a breezy engagement. She curates the cynical beauty of millennials better than any fiction writer I have read, and it is her greatest instrument as a writer, this tragicomedy oeuvre, that forces you to stay reading after you told yourself you would stop and go to bed.   (Reviewed by Valerie Morales).

Full Review Members Only (857 words).

Media Reviews

The Paris Review
I'm transfixed by the way Rooney works, and I'm hardly the only one… like any confident couturier, she's slicing the free flow of words into the perfect shape… She writes about tricky commonplace things (text messages, sex) with a familiarity no one else has.

The Times (UK)
Rooney homes in on what she's best at – describing people, with all their conceits and self-delusions, weaknesses and virtues. She does this with unsparing acuity and extraordinary sensitivity… There's arch humor in her insights too.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Rooney crafts a devastating story from a series of everyday sorrows by delicately traversing female and male anxieties over sex, class, and popularity. This is a magnificent novel.

The Bookseller (UK)
Beautifully observed and profoundly moving, I could scale new heights of hyperbole trying to describe how good this book is, but really, you just need to read it.

Booklist
Starred Review. Showcasing Rooney's focus and ability in building character relationships that are as subtle and infinite as real-life ones, and her perceptive portrayal of class, Normal People gets at the hard work of becoming a person and the near impossibility of knowing if a first love is a true one.

Library Journal
Starred Review. ...Rooney is a formidable talent. A major literary achievement.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become. Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

The Irish Times
It is time to take a sharp inhale, people. After the success of Conversations With Friends, Sally Rooney has produced a second novel, Normal People which will be just as successful as it deserves to be: it is superb...[T]he truth is that this novel is about human connection and I found it difficult to disconnect. It is a long time since I cared so much about two characters on a page.

Author Blurb Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter
I went into a tunnel with this book and didn't want to come out. Absolutely engrossing and surprisingly heart-breaking with more depth, subtlety, and insight than any one novel deserves. Young love is a subject of much scorn, but Rooney understands the cataclysmic effects our youth has on the people we become. She has restored not only love's dignity, but also its significance.

Author Blurb Emma Straub, author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers
Sally Rooney's Normal People is the deeply felt story of a foundational relationship at the margin of friendship and true love, of shame and devotion. This inventive and profound novel proves what great fiction can do - it can open a world at the seams.

Author Blurb Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot and The Possessed
I couldn't put Normal People down - I didn't think I could love it as much as Conversations with Friends, but I did. Sally Rooney is a treasure. I can't wait to see what she does next.

Author Blurb Sheila Heti, author of Motherhood and How Should a Person Be?
This is one the best novels I have read in years. Sally Rooney understands the complexities of love, its radical intimacy, and how power is always shifting between people, and she tells her story in a way that feels new and old at the same time. It is intelligent, spare and mesmerizing, and it sent me back to an earlier point in my life in such a vivid and real way, reanimating for me with that period of time (first love), which I had thought was lost to me forever, but which felt born again in the form of this book.

Author Blurb J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Saints for All Occasions
Sally Rooney is a master of the literary page-turner. In Normal People, she has once again crafted a complicated love story that's impossible to put down. It's also full of wise observations about class, gender roles and how the past shapes the present. Rooney's novels are populated with characters and situations that feel at once totally familiar and like something we've never seen in fiction before.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Why Young Adults Are Choosing the Suicide Option

Social Media and TeensTwo decades before I was born, a cousin of mine entered seminary and killed himself within the week. No one in the family discussed it. He was dead. No need to talk about why. But death by suicide has undergone a radical cultural shift. It is no longer an absurd secret.

In Sally Rooney's Normal People, Connell fantasizes about killing himself. Despite being a fictional character, many young adults feel exactly as he does, unanchored and more alone than ever. Many enter in soulless relationships, or as they call it, situationships. They are on the same sports team or work in the same office and they hook up. Or they engage in Tinder, Grindr and other apps, which may satiate desire in the short term, but the loose connections leave many ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Sally Rooney

If you liked Normal People, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Transcription
    by Kate Atkinson
    Over her two-decade-plus career, Kate Atkinson has reinvented herself as a writer several times by ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhalation
    Exhalation
    by Ted Chiang
    Exhalation is an assemblage of nine short stories and novellas written by Ted Chiang, a computer ...
  • Book Jacket: Disappearing Earth
    Disappearing Earth
    by Julia Phillips
    On the remote peninsula of Kamchatka—tucked away on the far eastern corner of Russia and ...
  • Book Jacket: The Island of Sea Women
    The Island of Sea Women
    by Lisa See
    Lisa See's latest novel, The Island of Sea Women, follows the lives of Mi-ja and Young-sook, two ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Guest Book
    by Sarah Blake

    "An American epic in the truest sense…"
    Entertainment Weekly
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Half-Life of Everything
by Deborah Carol Gang

A beautifully written and uplifting debut novel.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Miracle Creek

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie...

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I T S Form O F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.