So many people really liked Normal People by Sally Rooney…I’m not so enamoured!
It’s a love story — sort of. And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against love stories. However, I found the relationship between Marianne and Connell very odd indeed. Is it a relationship at all? There appears to be a real fear of commitment on both their parts.
They “know each other” in a small village high school in Ireland, but pretend not to know each other, for fear of what others might think. Marianne comes from ‘money’ and Connell’s mother cleans Marianne’s house. Who can’t remember the searing judgement atmosphere of high school? I found this early part of the story really resonated with me.
However, as the characters grow-up and move away from the parochial village life and into cosmopolitan Dublin and University, there appears to be little character development. Connell and Marianne do not seem to grow-up at all.
Their relationship continues to be on again, off again, (with great sex), but with agonising miss-steps in communication. Marianne’s descent into masochism is particular hard to bear. And I really couldn’t understand why she chose this path. There are glimpses of her family life, which is not idea (her brother is an outright bully), but it really didn’t explain her choices. Both Connell and Marianne are so self-absorbed — I hope this is not indicative of this generation or we are all doomed! But maybe I’ve just forgotten what it’s like?
Perhaps I’m the wrong demographic for this novel. Perhaps if I was 20 something years old, going through the whole messy business of finding love, I might find this a more absorbing novel. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
Review by Gaby Meares
Murder on a Monday Reading Group