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Reviews of Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Beautiful World, Where Are You

by Sally Rooney

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney X
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2021, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2022, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amanda Ellison
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About this Book

Book Summary

Beautiful World, Where Are You is a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends.

Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he'd like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.

Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young―but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

The publisher is offering a free download of the first chapter on their website (link opens in new window)

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What is it like to read a novel about a celebrity novelist who debates the role of novelists and their craft? How would you respond to the question Eileen raises at the beginning of chapter 12: "Do you think the problem of the contemporary novel is simply the problem of contemporary life?" Do you agree with Alice's definition of a great book (offered in chapter 22) as a work that engages the reader's sympathies?
  2. As you watched Alice and Felix on their first date, what were your initial impressions of them? What did you predict for their relationship?
  3. How does technology shape the way the characters communicate with each other? How does Rooney describe technology?
  4. How does Alice's interest in the historical Jesus differ from Simon's...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Rooney speaks to a generation of readers caught up in zeitgeisty dilemmas, much like J.D. Salinger held up a mirror to 1950s America in The Catcher in the Rye. At every turn, the novel confronts familiar features of our time, such as when Eileen reveals that two-thirds of her salary (only 20,000 euros per annum) goes to rent; this will resonate with young workers struggling to make it onto the housing ladder with little hope of a secure future. Such weighty concerns could be deeply depressing (at one point Eileen describes life as "standing in the last lighted room before the apocalypse"), yet Rooney does hint that there is joy to be found — most likely in the realm of the personal...continued

Full Review (898 words).

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(Reviewed by Amanda Ellison).

Media Reviews

The A.V. Club
It's easy to dismiss the individual entries in Rooney's triptych as far too similar, too slight commentaries on, as she writes, "the trivialities of sex and friendship." But as Rooney grows, not only do her characters age—from their early 20s to their nearing 30s—so do her novels mature.

Esquire
Rooney hammers out the problems and promises of contemporary novels and contemporary life—all while reminding us of her distinctive style's disarming intimacies...This is Rooney stepping into herself as a fully-formed artist, ready to defend the validity and originality of her methods...Beautiful World combines the intricacies of Rooney's lightning-rod style, like her deep well of sympathy for her characters and her precise economy of language, with a growing maturity.

NPR
It's a testament to Rooney's curious, cerebral gifts as a writer that she not only draws her readers into tolerating long stretches of such ruminations but makes them so entertaining. We feel we're in good company with our own end-time anxieties...In this ambitious novel of sentiment and ideas, which is so up to the minute in its global concerns, Rooney ironically reaches back to one of the oldest forms of the novel, the epistolary or letter form, to tell her story...Rooney's novel, like all great fiction, is open-ended.

San Francisco Chronicle
Delightfully dirty at times and compulsively readable...Though it admittedly feels wickedly satisfying to be caught once again in Rooney's web of friendship-courtship entanglements, the pining glances, wounded squabbles and even the raunchy, sexy scenes aren't the reasons to read Beautiful World...Instead, it's what Rooney does with the other chapters — probing letters between Alice and Eileen — that feels so experimental and exciting.

The New York Times
"Beautiful World, Where Are You" is Rooney's best novel yet. Funny and smart, full of sex and love and people doing their best to connect.

Booklist (starred review)
Writing with her trademark truthfulness and wit, Rooney compels with both these meta-conversations and the actions of her characters' lives: their enthralling, intimate, and consequential grappling with themselves, with one another, and with beauty, sex, and friendship. Rooney's first novel since Normal People, which became a popular and award-winning Hulu series, is steadily drawing excitement.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In many ways, this book, a work of both philosophy and romantic tragicomedy about the ways people love and hurt one another, is exactly the type of book one would expect Rooney to write out of the political environment of the past few years. But just because the novel is so characteristic of Rooney doesn't take anything away from its considerable power...A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] cool, captivating story...Rooney establishes a distance from her characters' inner lives, creating a sense of privacy even as she describes Alice and Eileen's most intimate moments. It's a bold change to her style, and it makes the illuminations all the more powerful when they pop. As always, Rooney challenges and inspires.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Literary Dublin

Bloomsday performers outside Davy Byrnes pub The backdrop of Sally Rooney's Beautiful World, Where Are You is the city of Dublin and its environs. Rooney herself lives in this UNESCO City of Literature, a metropolis that boasts a flourishing literary scene and an impressive inventory of influential authors, poets and playwrights. The streets of the vibrant capital are infused with the presence of its bookish greats, with landmarks never more than a few minutes away.

Cross a bridge over the River Liffey, and it most likely has a literary connection — three are named after Sean O'Casey, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, the last of which faces the house mentioned in "The Dead," the final story in the author's Dubliners: "the dark, gaunt house on Usher's Island." Dublin even ...

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