Normal People is the story of the complicated relationship between Connell and Marianne. They meet as teens in school, and at Marianne's home where Connell's mother is employed; Connell is popular while Marianne is reserved and lonely. They forge a secret connection and then are separated when both go to college at Trinity College in Dublin. When they meet again, the tables are turned; Marianne is the center of her social circle while Connell is on the outskirts. They continue in one another's orbit for years, drawing closer and then apart, but never able to pull away.
While I love listening to an Irish audiobook, I do wish I had read this one in print instead. Many of the nuances of language and relationships for which Rooney has been receiving accolades were not as impactful on audio. I was intrigued by Connell and Marianne, and this is a rare audiobook that I may revisit in print.
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At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.