Sally Rooney

Normal People

Marianne is young, affluent, and clever while Connell, the boy everyone likes, is stalked by poverty and his family’s reputation. These two young people from either side of life’s track, become friends and then lovers. Their small-town beginnings in rural Ireland are eclipsed by the heady worlds of student Dublin and their love soon turns into a battleground of power, class and miscommunication.

Paperback: 304 Pages

Language: English

Format: Kindle Edition, Audiobook, Hardcover, Paperback, & Audio CD

Reviewed By Reviewed By Lucy Skoulding
“A tender, harrowing novel.”


A friend of mine, who had also read Normal People, said that Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel made her feel uncomfortable because the reader is so intertwined in the pain of the two central characters. Her comment stayed with me because it perfectly sums up this coming of age, millennial book! 

Rooney’s debut novel follows the lives of two young lovers, Marianne and Connell, growing up in Ireland, navigating the relationship they have with each other as well as the relationship they have with themselves as they move from school, university and into adulthood. It may seem like your average romance novel – and there would be nothing wrong with it if it did – but Normal People has so many layers and an impact on the reader that’s difficult to put into words.

It makes you realise the way you’ve felt about experiences and situations in how your life has been lived and felt by other people. Reading the book makes you feel not so alone in your thoughts, which is why it would especially resonate with a teenager in Sixth Form college or a university student. Connell, who is clever and friends with the popular crowd at school, fancies Marianne, an outcast and loner from a rich family, but he doesn’t want to be seen as liking her at school so the pair decide to embark on a secret love affair.

They are smitten with each other, but then a combination of poor decision-making, outside pressures, obstacles and differing priorities means they constantly break up and come back together in a romantic journey that’s both addictive and frustrating for the reader.

This novel is both a detailed look at the struggles of two people and a much wider comment on life as a millennial. It grapples with huge themes, from mental health and abuse to capitalism, friendship and financial hardship.

Reviewed by Lucy Skoulding