Book Review: Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’

Rachel Ward reviews Sally Rooney's 'Normal People', and tells us why it's a must read.

Book Review: Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’

Normal People by Sally Rooney. Worth all the hype?


Sally Rooney's Normal People

Published in 2018, when Rooney was only 27 years old, Normal People is Rooney’s second novel –the first being Conversations with Friends published in 2017. It was inspired by a short story titled At the Clinic which Rooney published in 2016 in literary magazine, The White Review, which follows the characters from Normal People on a trip to the dentist when they’re both 23 years old.

Normal People follows two Irish teenagers who are complete opposites. Connell is a shy but popular guy. Marianne is opinionated, always in trouble with teachers, and has no friends. One day they strike up a conversation and a complicated twenty-first century love story unfolds. 

They act like they don’t know each other at school – Connell is afraid of what people will say. But outside of school they know each other very well, yet not at all. They grow a deep connection while trying to get through the complexities of graduating and applying for university. A year later they reconnect at university, and the tables have turned. Connell is struggling to find his place and Marianne is flourishing having found her social butterfly wings. Throughout their years at university they are constantly drawn to each other, with what seems like a force that can’t be broken. 

This book had me hooked from the moment I started reading it. In the beginning, I was confused by there not being any quotation marks. It threw me off a bit, and I was worried I would struggle, but I got used to it very quickly. I assume she doesn’t use quotation marks because the story is mainly told through conversations with the characters. 

I fell in love with the characters, but got so frustrated with them as well. They can communicate about deep life issues but struggle to communicate about the simple ones. 

It’s a beautifully messy love story that I recommend everyone read. And then once you have read the book, watch the short series. It made the book come to life and I fell even deeper in love. 

Read with Rachel Rating: 5 out of 5 avocados.

Favourite quotes from the book. 

  • “It’s just not like this with anyone else. “I’m not a religious person but I do sometimes think God made you for me “
  • I don’t know what’s wrong with me, says Marianne. I don’t know why I can’t be like normal people” 
  • “Most people go through their whole lives, without ever really feeling that close with anyone.”

Read With Rachel @cptbookgirl

Read with Rachel on Instagram @cptbookgirl

Rachel Ward, the latest edition to the Essential Millennial team, is an avid reader, based in Cape Town. Follow her on Instagram at @cptbookgirl to find more of her reviews and to keep up with her literary adventures. You can also keep an eye on our Reviews section for more from Rachel in future!


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