by Sally Rooney
Reviewed by: Ellie Rowsell
Every year my New Years resolution is to read more. The more I read the happier I am. During a good book I actively feel my world expanding, my emotional intelligence developing, I have lived a thousand lives from the comfort of my own bed. It is reassuring that there is an escape route from every day life that demands only you lift a finger to turn a page. Sure, I can escape down youtube wormholes and god only knows I do sometimes, but reading allows me to getaway and relax without switching off. As someone who spends a lot of time trapped in transit, or confined to the four walls of small, dark and dank dressing rooms reading is a welcomed pleasure.
It serves as a catalyst for inspiration. Whether I am inspired by the story itself or the words in which it was told I am a better writer and no doubt a better person if I have stuck to my New Years resolution.
After reading Sally Rooney’s debut novel, Conversations with Friends, I felt as though I had broken up with my lover, been extradited from my friendship group and forced out of my hometown all at once. I missed Dublin, I missed Nicki, I really missed Bobbi. My grief however was subdued a little by the promise of a new book in August called ‘Normal People’. When the day came I actually saw the world pre-midday to go and get it from my local bookshop. The man behind the counter gave me a smirk ‘You’ve been waiting for this day’ he stated to me. Was I salivating or something? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is this book had a lot to live up to for me, I had placed an unfair amount of expectation on it and oh my god did it deliver.
Rarely does a love story press all the buttons, in fact, I had somewhat succumbed to the idea that love is beyond language, too difficult and perhaps even impossible to do it justice with words. And yet here Sally Rooney has presented us with a perfect modern love story; painful in its realism and still outrageously enviable in its romance. Rooney uses her protagonist’s experiences at both school and university to bring up issues of power that I imagine will have many other past and present students reflecting on their own experience’s.
So be warned, ‘Normal People’ might entice some painful self-reflection but perhaps that is testament to the strength of Sally’s writing. Once again I am mourning the loss of another life, I had found myself so totally absorbed in, but in no doubt, it was worth it. Bring on number three Sally.
‘…he felt the beat of pressure inside his body, like watching a perfect goal, like the rustling of the light through leaves, a phrase of music from the window of a passing car. Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything.’