Normal People by Sally Rooney is a tender love story between Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan that starts when the two of them are in secondary school in County Sligo and continues through their college years at Trinity College in Dublin. Theirs is an on-again, off-again romance though romance is too silly and superficial a word for the vulnerability and emotion that mark their every interaction. However, Normal People is not just a love story. Capitalist class differences make themselves felt on Connell and Marianne’s lives, influencing their decisions and introducing individual tangents in the joint trajectory of their relationship story. (A love story against the backdrop of class-divided society. Who does that remind you of? )

Normal People/ Bookended

Personal notes and thoughts:

1. I ‘read’ this book as an audiobook. The length of the book was approximately 7-8 hours long. I got through the first three hours in one stretch (I also got lots of chores done: while listening to audiobooks and podcasts is the only way I can get them done with equanimity.) It was unputdownable. As we headed towards the second part, I had to stop because the couple’s potential for disaster starts building momentum like a runaway train. I was a spectator and I couldn’t bear to watch (listen). I started again the next day and finished the book. If you are looking for a book that carries you away from the nearly the first page, this is it. I loved it.

2. There is a quote in the book about literature that really stayed with me: “It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about.” Ouch.

Normal People/ Bookended

3. The book also brought to mind these points: there is always a gap between who we are and who we want to be seen as; that people sometimes bring out something in us that we don’t want to acknowledge, let alone grow; many times we push people into conversations and confrontations and then we are terrified when it breaks away from our control and takes us somewhere that we are not ready to go. That love is a gift that gets passed back and forth between two people, ideally becoming more nuanced over time.

4. There is now a TV series on Hulu: I haven’t watched it and so I don’t know how it is but I can definitely recommend the book.

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