Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Pretty successful and critically feted second novel, following Conversations with Friends. Follows the relationship between Connell and Marianne from school/college in a small Irish town through university at Dublin.

What it reminds me of most is One Day. The structure is that each chapter is set at a particular time (they begin by saying "six months later" etc.) and has a narrative in the present tense with sections in the past tense that bring you up to date about what happened in the previous gap. I think this worked quite effectively, although at first it was a bit distracting because I couldn't help noticing the switches of tense.

After an hour or so, it occurred to me that there hadn't been anything that really described what Marianne and Connell look like - nothing about eye/hair colour, weight, face etc.. There is a comment that leads you to think that Marianne might not be particularly attractive but that's about it. At school, Marianne is not popular, and so I had wondered if that might be because she had a peculiar appearance. But I think the lack of physical description was good.

As in One Day, you see the way that the relationship between the protagonists changes: at one stage, Connell is definitely the "leader", but later on that switches - and then switches back again. I don't think there is much doubt about where the story go: you know fairly soon that the whole book is going to follow them both and will be the story of how they eventually get together - or break up. Because of the ambiguous ending of her last book, I thought perhaps this one would end unhappily.

The writing was really nice, and the reader was just right: lovely Irish accent. The setting felt very "current" (I think it takes place between around 2013 and 2016?) and talks about students carrying their Macbooks around the campus. I liked the way she threw in incidental detail - e.g. (from memory) when Connell visited the family home of a friend, "her mother took a photograph of them, and her father showed him his golf clubs". And "he takes a sip from his beer: the beer is cold but the glass is room temperature"

I gave Ella "Conversations with Friends" but I think she'd like this one more. I think it's more accessible than that book.

Completed : 26-Mar-2019 (audiobook)

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