On Line Book Club

by [Data Required]

Reviewed by: Tom Muckian

Tom Muckian

On Line Book Club – Review

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People is the story of Marianne and Connell. We first meet them in their final year at school. Both by their own admission are damaged people. We never quite find out why they are damaged (is damaged the new Normal?). Marianne’s mother Denise is a solicitor, emotionally cold and indifferent to Marianne. She’s unpopular at school, though thought of as odd rather than actively disliked. Connell’s mother Lorraine works as a cleaner for Marianne’s mother. He’s popular at school, but shy, and they strike up an initially awkward friendship and quickly become lovers. They finish school and both end up at Trinity College in Dublin, where over the course of the next few years, their, on- again off-again relationship continues, as they both make the adjustment to big city life.

Normal People is very much about Marianne and Connell. We meet family members and friends. They both have other relationships and while these other characters play their part, they are too sketchily drawn to make a real impression. We’re never really sure why Marianne’s mother is so indifferent to her or why her brother is so cruel to her. We never get any real sense of dysfunction from Connell’s family despite the fact that his absent father is a shady criminal type. The format of the book, which jumps about in a staggered timeline also ensures that the spotlight stays firmly on the couple. And that’s just fine. We like these people. We want life to work out for them. We hope they finally end up together.

The writing is fluid and Rooney has a wonderful ear for dialogue. Yes, the book has flaws, but much like the flaws in our protagonists we can live with them. The real strength of Normal People is in the detail, the acute observations about people and how they relate to each other. The difficulties we have communicating with each other despite the digital age we live in and the myriad methods of communication at our disposal.  In many ways it seems that the story is often as much about our relationships with ourselves, as with others.

I finished the book caring about Connell and Marianne and wanting to know what happened to them next. Theirs is a friendship and a love story, and I got the real impression that even if their affair didn’t last that the friendship would.

And that folks, is our first review for the Roe River Books, On Line Book Club. Do feel free to post a comment here or on the Facebook page. Do try to keep it clean though (unless it’s funny).Our Book Club choice for November is Emma Pine’s Notes to Self (more about this book in a later post).



We did promise you when we launched the On Line Book Club that we hoped to have a special guest reviewer join us at the end of the month. As a huge fan of Sally Rooney’ s debut novel Conversations With Friends we thought we’d ask Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice for her considered opinion.

Ellie Rowsell photo by Adriana Martín

Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen (Grapes of Wrath), Motorcycle Emptiness by Manic Street Preachers (Rumble Fish), Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones ( Master and the Margarita), Atrocity Exhibition (Atrocity Exhibition) by Joy Division : there’s a long history of rock musicians being inspired by books.

More recently Mercury Award winners Wolf Alice have taken inspiration from the world of literature. Emma Cline’s The Girls and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter are just two of the books to have informed their musical progress. So, we’re delighted that guitarist and lead singer Ellie Rowsell has agreed to be a regular book reviewer for us here at Roe River Books. We’ll be posting Ellie’s review of our Book of the Month, in the next day or so.

As well as being incredibly nice people Wolf Alice also make great music. If you haven’t listened to them yet, you should. My Love is Cool is a great debut album and the follow up Visions of a Life deservedly picked up this years Mercury Prize. Go and buy them both now.