Normal People by Sally Rooney : The Rawness of Troubled Young Love

When I first read ‘Normal People’, I did not immediately fall in love with Rooney’s writing. The hype surrounding the book was immense and as much as this story left me feeling incomplete, watching its TV adaptation, made it come full circle. It made me fall in love with the story and its characters. In fact, so much so, I ended up reading parts of the book again to experience it with a renewed perspective. It is only then, that I truly understood how beautifully Rooney has captured the tenderness and torture of first love between the words of her pages. She has skillfully woven themes of social class, intimacy, and insecurity into this best-selling book.

Reading ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney and watching it’s BBC/Hulu adaptation go hand in hand and needs to be expereinced as such. This twelve episode series beautifully showcases a complex love story and encapsulates the lust of young love between the two main characters of ‘Normal People’ – Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron.

Paul Mescal as Connell and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne in ‘Normal People’.
Image credit: Hulu

We meet these teenagers when they are in their last year of school before they go off to Trinity College. Marianne is the social outcast coming from a wealthy family and lives with her widowed mother and her unpleasant brother. Connell is the popular sports guy, well liked and hailing from a middle class background. Connell’s mother works as a housekeeper at Marianne’s family home. One day, as Connell is picking his mother up from Marianne’s home, the two begin talking and a deep connection develops.

Connell : “See I’m just a little confused about what I feel, I think. Uh, it’d be awkward in school if something happened between us”.
Marianne: “No one would have to know”

Marianne and Connell decide to conceal their relationship. Connell doesn’t even talk to Marianne in school, for fear of what his friends might think. What follows is a complicated, yet intense relationship between the two, with episodes of miscommunication and troubles around their social standings.

At the essence of the story we see that, Marianne and Connell are both deeply flawed characters and are confused individuals growing up. They have an on again off-again relationship oscillating between friends and lovers and spend years pursuing and withdrawing from each other. They are both highly intelligent. They ace their exams and talk about big subjects. They have an insatiable need for sex and for being together at every opportunity but fail to communicate with each other in crucial times.

In ‘Normal People’, Rooney has a way of capturing the unbalanced and unhealthy dynamic of the relationship between Marianne and Connell, yet at the same time she allowed the readers to feel and share in their tender moments as well.
The beauty of ‘Normal People‘ is that it is not a love story that we would glorify and cherish. But rather an honest, raw and uninhibited telling of young love that cuts straight to the heart.

My recommendation would be to read the book, and definitely watch the series to see the characters come to life. Here is a little trailer from the TV series adaptation of ‘Normal People‘ starring Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne and Paul Mescal as Connell.

“How strange to feel herself so completely under the control of another person, but also how ordinary. Sally Rooney, Normal People.

Let me know if you have read the book or watched the series. I would love to hear your thoughts!
With all my love,

I look forward to your comments!

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