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September 2020: Psychological > [Poll Ballot] Normal People by Sally Rooney - 4 stars

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Joy D | 4057 comments Normal People by Sally Rooney - 4 stars - My Review

Set in Ireland, this contemporary fiction explores the relationship between two young people: Marianne and Connell. It begins in the last year of high school and follows their lives through college. In high school, Connell is a slave to social convention, whereas Marianne refuses to conform and is treated as an outcast. In college, their situation reverses, as Marianne comes from a wealthy family and Connell does not. They experience differing forms of mental health issues. Their on-again-off-again relationship is one place where they feel free to be authentic.

I found this book insightful. I think many young people believe popularity is a constant, but, as this book shows, it is largely dependent upon environment and the corresponding social mores. This is true to life, at least in my experience. The power of the opinions of others is often overestimated. Both Marianne and Connell express the desire to be “normal,” but what is normal, anyway? Self-concept has a lot to do with it.

Connell and Marianne are sympathetic characters. It is easy to hope for a good outcome for them. There are layers of influences to unravel – intellectual, social, political, economic, as well as nuclear family dynamics and its impact on each character. The characters’ interactions and friendships portray an unusual level of emotional depth. I enjoyed this book very much.


NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5692 comments Excellent review. I'm reading it now. I found the high-school to college switch very interesting. The change in Connell's confidence popularity going from a small town to a city is a common phenomenon I think. But Marianne seemed to undergo a real personality change with new social skills. I suppose that's not too uncommon either. Going to college gives people an opportunity to reinvent themselves, and try out new behaviors and attitudes.


Joy D | 4057 comments NancyJ wrote: "Excellent review. I'm reading it now. I found the high-school to college switch very interesting. The change in Connell's confidence popularity going from a small town to a city is a common phenome..."
Thanks, Nancy. I felt being in a different environment was a key. People around her had no idea she was previously considered "uncool" - a change of scenery and no baggage can do wonders for a person's outlook.


message 4: by Joy D (last edited Sep 27, 2020 10:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy D | 4057 comments inka wrote: "
I never thought I'd enjoy the pacing of this book but I was surprised to find myself liking it, I think it's quite charming even, like the author is so comfortable with the pace she'd set and di..."


Yes, the pacing was nicely done. I liked the shorter chapters. I tend to enjoy character-driven novels, so it was in my wheelhouse.


NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 5692 comments Wow. I finished it. It went to places I didn't expect. Very powerful.


Joy D | 4057 comments I agree!


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