Love & Longing In Dublin
Sally Rooney’s Normal People, came out to rave reviews and inclusion in the Booker longlist. The novel is a sombre version of When Harry Met Sally, using accepted romcom tropes—a couple having an on-off romance over many years– but with utter seriousness and a marked lack of flippancy.
Marianne and Connell are first seen as teenagers, studying in the same class in the town of Sligo. They are both academically bright, but also socially awkward misfits—she is more of a loner than he is. Marianne belongs to a rich family, and Connell’s mother cleans her mansion. This social disparity does not get in the way of their love, though Connell is particular about keeping their relationship secret, and ignores her in public. When he does something truly hurtful, Marianne cuts him off totally and they only meet again in college in Dublin; she has transformed into a pretty and popular young woman, sought after by men, while he is unable to adjust to his new life away from home.
The two hook-up, break-up, love and hurt each other very intensely, but there is something tender and heart-breaking about their story—they are made for each other, but the only ones who cannot understand this is the two of them. Happiness and misery go hand-in-hand, and each encounter leaves them emotionally scarred. Rooney’s characters are endearing, even when they exasperatingly insist on complicating their lives.
Normal People captures the spirit of the millennial generation that is trying to redefine love and twisting itself into knots.