Normal People Paperback – 1 May 2019
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- Item Weight : 229 g
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0571334652
- ISBN-13 : 978-0571334650
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
- Publisher : Faber & Faber; Main edition (1 May 2019)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Top reviews from India
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I'm not trying to be provocatively snarky here - there is a great deal regarding human emotion that is agnostic of culture and society and we do get that here through some beautiful observations and most profound analyses by an extremely talented writer.
"How strange to feel herself so completely under the control of another person, but also how ordinary. No one can be independent of other people completely, so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not."
"This ‘what?’ question seems to him to contain so much: not just the forensic attentiveness to his silences that allows her to ask in the first place, but a desire for total communication, a sense that anything unsaid is an unwelcome interruption between them."
"Not for the first time Marianne thinks cruelty does not only hurt the victim, but the perpetrator also, and maybe more deeply and more permanently. You learn nothing very profound about yourself simply by being bullied; but by bullying someone else you learn something you can never forget."
But a lot of this book was quite educational (if that's the right word) for me about the 'class' struggles, the sublimated impact of Modern Family lite, the unsaid rules, etiquette and expectations of teenage relationships, the pressures & manner of 'fitting-in', in another part of the world which despite the influence of Hollywood & English-language books over three decades still acted as a bit of an eye opener. Also the long rambling descriptions of making yourself a cup of tea and drinking sessions in colleges and wandering the supermarket aisles are probably what lets you peak into life in another world.
"Marianne goes inside and comes back out again with another bottle of sparkling wine, and one bottle of red. Niall starts unwrapping the wire on the first bottle and Marianne hands Connell a corkscrew. Peggy starts clearing people's plates. Connell unpeels the foil from the top of a bottle as Jamie leans over and says something to Marianne. He sinks the screw into the cork and twists it downwards. Peggy takes his plate away and stacks it with the others"
"The kettle comes to the boil. Lorraine sweeps the line of hairpins into the palm of her hand, closes her fist around them and pockets them. She gets up then, fills the cup of tea, adds milk, and puts the bottle back in the fridge. He watches her."
Unlike a lot of folks who don't seem to have liked the deadpan, present tense-using, no quotation-marks writing style - I quite liked that and thought it wasn't unnecessarily descriptive of the background scenery as many literary novels (of which set this book is a part of with a Booker nomination and everything else) are wont to be. My bigger disconnect was with the inability to connect with the two central characters and understand their IMO pig-headed actions and decisions. Actually even though after all the insight we have, I don't think I understand their emotions of intense longing, complete depression, ability to switch on-and-off in relationships which are based on some magical other-worldly connections. Surely one would expect more rational decision making and clearer communication from intelligent human beings and awareness of a world outside their bubble? This is alluded to once in the book as well:
"But that was their world then. Their feelings were suppressed so carefully in everyday life, forced into smaller and smaller spaces, until seemingly minor events took on insane and frightening significance."
This line above kind of sums up what this whole book is about. Sure stories are always about people but there has to be something plausible, connectable, interesting, less tedious?
So now, trying to summarise more to put my thoughts in order :
- Did I enjoy reading it? I guess, yes - it is very readable
- Would I recommend it? I think I would even if it's just for the writing style
- Would I read another book by the author? Probably not
Normal People explores some of the same sentiments that 'A Little Life' does: the power that the people we love exercise over us; an exploration of self-destruction and self-denigration; and the effects of time on how a soul changes and yet remains the same. It pays attention to those measured looks, throwaway comments and thoughtless gestures that end up having a sizeable influence on how a relationship evolves.
The story is also structured very cleverly. The character viewpoints are covered in chapters and there is a jump in time, sometimes a few days and sometimes many months, between each one. The chapters are meant to focus on key events of this evolving relationship, but they also go a long way in covering the events which took place during the intervening period.
The writing is sparse and perfectly nails what the characters feel at any particular point. This is well worth the Booker Prize nomination and I’m definitely going to re-read Normal People at some point in the future.
Marianne and Connell are far from being "normal" and they struggle to fit in the society at one point or the other. They develop a complicated relationship where they struggle with their feelings for each other. All this happens while they are figuring out their new life after college.
Betrayal, tension, miscommunication, sexual exploration and vulnerabilities dominate the narrative. Also, there are a few instances which highlight the changing social and political scenario.
This book is very engaging and easy to read. Although it deals with the relationship of two people, it is far from being an ordinary story. It is raw in its true sense. It is also disturbing and unsettling at a few points.
To sum up, Normal People is a story of two people who struggle with normalcy. It is not a "normal" love story yet it is very much normal because so many different people struggle with different things which we don't know about. In my opinion, this book normalises the weirdness and acknowledges that people can have strange streaks which is totally normal in today's harsh world. Reading this book is an experience in itself.
While the opinions of the people around them continue to differ...it is their perception of their own selves that changes.
I found myself identifying with many instances and characters.
I would recommend this book for those who perhaps didn't fit well in school but realized eventually that they were on the right track all along :)
Top reviews from other countries
The Guardian praised it as "a future classic".
Elif Batuman, author of my favourite "The Idiot" said: "I couldn't put "Normal People" down - I didn't think I could love it as much as "Conversations with Friends", but I did. Sally Rooney is a treasure. I can't wait to see what she does next."
For me it was a no (a NO!!!). I'm feeling tired just thinking about explaining myself and the annoyance, disappointment and... almost hurt I experienced while reading "Normal People". I want my money back!
Throughout the book I kept thinking why, why is this not working for me? Why I'm becoming more and more annoyed? Why don't I care? Why?? Maybe because I am no longer a target audience of the book.
Nice enough writing and observations but somewhat dull and infantile. The very notion of the two people, seemingly perfect for each other, ruining each other's lives over and over again drove me mad. It became repetitive, then it became boring. I just could not stand reading about on-off relationship of these young damaged adults while such important matters like domestic abuse, depression and mental health in general were hugely overlooked.
I really cannot see why the novel made it to the Man Booker Prize longlist. And yes, perhaps it's not a one star book but at this point, this is what I feel.
You know what I reminded me of? Rupi Kaur and her poetry.
First up: UGH PUNCTUATION. I hate this no-quotation-marks style. Hated it when Cormac McCarthy used it, hate it now. I know it's a stylistic thing, but... well, I guess I'll just say it's not a style I like.
Normal People is a story of abuse. It's the story of Marianne who goes from terrible relationship to terrible relationship and allows herself to be abused because it's all she's ever known. In a way, it's gripping because you just want Marianne to get out of this, get out of all this crap she's living with, but she just goes from bad to worse. Everything in her life is tied around Connell and his acceptance/rejection of her, and it's ridiculous because even though he doesn't actually hit her or anything, it's obvious (to me, at least) that he's an oblivious idiot who is obviously using Marianne for his own benefit. It's not to say that she didn't get anything out of it--she did--but if this is what relationships are like in the 21st century, I'm glad I'm not in one. Maybe I'm too prudish for this book. Marianne has a warped idea of "submission" and part of the story veers into something BDSM-like relationships, except Marianne did not seem to like it very much, even if she somehow craved it.
On the other side, it also explores Connell's anxiety and depression, and how desperately he needs Marianne in his life to make him feel normal and in control, even though he's seeing/dating other people. It's just... messed up.
The shifting timelines--each chapter jumps a few months, and then hops back a little to cover important missed events--was sometimes a little confusing. The constant segueing between present tense and past tense feels fluid at times, but awkward at times. Maybe I'm not a very close reader but with all the jumps, it gives the book a very floating/fluid feel, and I sometimes don't really know when it is anymore.
All in all, Normal People is a dark, stark look at relationships and youth in Ireland.
I guess the writing is good and all, I just didn't like the subject matter very much.
It is clearly written by a young person with little life experience and it lacks depth. I didn't feel that the characters were "real" and didn't really care what happened to them.
I'm sorry to write such a poor review and I'm sure that Sally Rooney will develop as a writer and produce some better work.