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Book Review: Normal People - Sally Rooney

Title: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Price: Rs. 451.50 on Audible
Listening Length: 7 hours and 36 minutes
Narrator: Aoife McMahon

This year I've read different genres of books and books that I would normally not pick up. It was about widening my horizons with respect to reading and once I tried out books by different authors, I knew I had made the right choice. Normal People by Sally Rooney was one of the books on the list of Barack Obama's best books for 2019. I have read 'Girl, Woman, Other' which was also on the list and loved it. What intrigued me the most about this one was the title. I read about the book and the story seemed very YA like and I wasn't too keen.

Soon, a lot of people were praising it on social media and Sanch, whose reviews and recommendations I hold in high regard, spoke very highly of this book. Some others also told me that this book is not easy to read. Apparently it is devoid of dialogue and punctuation so it makes the reading tedious. But, I still wanted to know what it was all about. So, what did I do? Audible to the rescue.

I have listened to so many books on Audible now that in some ways I prefer it to a paperback or the Kindle. You can read about my experience with Audible here.

Normal People asks a lot of important questions. Why does one feel the need to be independent all the time? Why can't one just depend on someone and be okay with it? Why does one have to live life the way our parents have? Why does one have to be okay with what life has given them? Why do you have to define relationships? Why does one have to try too hard to blend in? Why does one have to try so hard to stand out? Why can't one just be normal? Most importantly, what is normal?

Connell and Marianne are two teenagers who attend the same school in Ireland. Connell is popular and highly intelligent while Marianne is equally intelligent but unpopular. Connell and Marianne get talking when he goes to her house to pick his mother, who works as a cleaner there. Soon, they begin and affair but Connell asks Marianne to keep it a secret as he's embarrassed about what his friends would say. They continue to sleep together and get to know each other better. When Marianne decides to apply to Trinity college in Dublin, Connell does too. Their end their affair just before they realize that both of them have been accepted to Trinity.

In Trinity, the tables turn for Connell and Marianne. Marianne, due to her affluent family, is popular here while Connell is out of his comfort zone and is struggling to fit in. Marianne now has a boyfriend, but when she meets Connell at Trinity, they get back together. This time, it is no longer a secret. Everyone knows about them and are happy for them, but no one understands the actual relationship that they share. Everything about their relationship is raw, delicate and messy. They create chaos in each other's lives and they also are the people who can calm the chaos for each other.

When Connell decides to move back home for a brief while when he loses his job and is broke, he tells Marianne that they need to see other people. Marianne agrees. Throughout the course of their lives, they come together and break apart many times, always finding a way back to each other. She comes with her share of insecurities while he's petrified of the control he has over her. She's known abuse and expects it from him too. He's not the one to abuse but with the power he has over her, he can get away with it. Will he give in?

Connell and Marianne's relationship is complex, twisted and unhealthy to a large extent, but they can only be happy and feel like themselves with each other. Is love in the equation? One can never know.

This book has some of the best prose ever. It also handles the issue of mental health with utmost sensitivity and sincerity. The writing is almost poetic and while the story is nothing spectacular, it feels good because of the two main characters. Two friends, trying to figure themselves out and each other. Like normal people. The narration by Aoife McMahon is brilliant and does complete justice to the story.

Verdict: A simple read about complex relationships told in the most normal way possible. Loved it!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


  1. I have never 'listened' to a book; always read it.
    This does sound interesting. Yes, what is normal? Aren't we all normal to ourselves and completely abnormal to others?
    Would love to read this book.

    1. Do read this one, it has some brilliant prose.

  2. I have been wanting to read this one! I will surely get to it soon now.

  3. I always love your reviews. And you read such excellent books. This one already sounds like something that will overwhelm me. 😊 I cannot deal with broken relationships in books. Human relationships are complicated. There's nothing simple about Love and the wide range of emotions that come with up. I am sure it is an excellent read.

    1. Thank you so much, Raj. You are the sweetest <3

      Hahaha, I can totally understand.


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