Normal People | Sally Rooney
Star-crossed lovers Marianne and Connell zig zag through high school and college, caught in a cycle of getting together and falling apart. Quirky individuals that they are, no one else holds a candle to the flame that burns within for each other, and they can't help but wonder if maybe they belong together. Rooney's writing style is lean and spare. She writes in present tense and forgoes the use of quotation marks. The effect is direct and commanding. Conversations blur with the narrative, demanding that I slow down and pay close attention. Every exquisite detail serves the myriad and ever-shifting emotions of the main characters. This writing fills me with joy.
* * * * *
This story makes me angry. .Look, there's no other way to say it - Marianne and Connell's make-up-to-break-up relationship is profoundly unhealthy. Sure, they share a deep intellectual connection and they have great sex. but both are clearly suffering from unresolved childhood traumas (and there are plenty to go around.) What truly unites them is their brokenness, and as beautiful as it may seem to fantasize that two battered human beings can rescue one another, that's not the way real life works. Two drowning people can't save each other; they watch each other drown.
At least Connell seeks out some counseling for his depression which apparently responds well to medication, but Marianne spirals into darkness resulting from emotional and physical abuse and ultimately concludes that her dissolving self-esteem is just an ordinary part of life. As the story winds down, Marianne reflects in numb and emotionless tones that she's "a normal person now" and I want to scream. No, Marianne. The pain you feel is not normal. You're deeply traumatized and you need help to get better. Please go to counseling. You deserve so much more than this.
* * * * *
Hey, wanna read more reviews of books I've read in 2021? Here you go: