Normal People: Summary, facts, lessons and Review

Normal People Book

Summary about the book “Normal People”

“Normal People” by Sally Rooney is a novel about the complex relationship between two teenagers, Connell and Marianne, who attend the same secondary school in County Sligo, Ireland. The story takes place during the post-2008 Irish economic downturn, from 2011 through 2015. Marianne comes from a wealthy family but suffers from low self-esteem due to her brother’s verbal abuse. Connell, on the other hand, is self-conscious about his origins, shy, indecisive, and popular despite his private insecurities.

Despite their differences, Marianne and Connell connect through their shared interests and care for social justice. Marianne is considered a misfit at school and ignores Connell publicly to avoid harming his social standing. Privately, however, she tells Connell bluntly that she has feelings for him. Cornell reciprocates these feelings, but he thinks of their relationship as a private matter and does not share it with the rest of the world. After they begin a sexual relationship, Connell becomes more willing to be seen with Marianne in public, but the relationship ends abruptly when he asks one of the school’s popular girls to the dance.

Marianne and Connell meet again at Trinity College Dublin, where Marianne has become more sociable and comfortable in the upper-class university environment. Meanwhile, Connell feels out of place and inferior, which leads to a second breakup. Connell has a relationship with another student, Helen, who is more conventional than Marianne, while Marianne has relationships with Jamie and Lukas, both of whom are abusive in their own ways.

Throughout the novel, violence repeatedly impacts Marianne and Connell in unexpected ways, from the abuse Marianne suffers from her brother and mother to Connell’s depression after a friend’s suicide. Despite their troubles, Marianne and Connell realize they have been good for each other by the time they graduate from university. Connell decides to pursue a career in writing and moves to New York for a graduate program, while Marianne tells him she will always be there for him.

Rooney’s novel explores themes of class, power, and love through the complicated relationship between Marianne and Connell. It delves into the challenges of growing up and finding one’s place in the world, particularly in a society that values social status and conformity. Through Marianne and Connell’s experiences, the novel shows the importance of communication, empathy, and mutual respect in relationships, as well as the damaging effects of abuse and violence. Overall, “Normal People” is a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant novel that captures the complexities of human relationships and the struggles of young adulthood.

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Lessons or Takeaways from the book “Normal People”

  1. Communication is key in any relationship. Marianne and Connell often fail to communicate effectively with each other, causing misunderstandings and conflicts.
  2. Vulnerability is necessary for intimacy. Marianne and Connell struggle to open up to each other and be vulnerable, which makes it difficult for them to connect on a deeper level.
  3. Social status can be a powerful force. Marianne’s wealthy and abusive family causes her to feel isolated and inferior, while Connell’s working-class background makes him feel like he doesn’t belong at university.
  4. The past can haunt us. Marianne’s history of abuse and neglect affects her relationships and self-esteem throughout the novel.
  5. Mental health issues can be debilitating. Marianne suffers from depression and suicidal thoughts, which affect her ability to function in everyday life.
  6. Relationships can be cyclical. Marianne and Connell’s relationship is characterized by periods of intense closeness followed by long periods of distance and estrangement.
  7. Love can be complicated. Marianne and Connell’s love for each other is powerful and intense, but it is also fraught with misunderstandings, miscommunications, and unspoken feelings.
  8. Self-discovery is a lifelong process. Marianne and Connell both go through significant personal growth and change throughout the novel as they learn more about themselves and the world around them.
  9. Education can be transformative. Marianne and Connell’s experiences at university shape their identities and worldview in significant ways.
  10. Small moments can have a big impact. Many of the pivotal moments in Marianne and Connell’s relationship are seemingly small or insignificant, but they have a profound impact on their feelings for each other and the trajectory of their relationship.

Quotes from the book “Normal People”

  1. “He doesn’t know why he feels this way, like his life is a film set and he’s walking through it in costume.”
  2. “She has never understood what they want from her, what this thing called family is supposed to provide. She remembers being young and feeling a sense of dread that she would never find anyone to love her, but she thinks that perhaps everyone feels that way?”
  3. “The silence between them is comfortable, like an old armchair you sink into.”
  4. “Connell said he knew Marianne liked him because she was always finding excuses to touch him.”
  5. “She has never believed herself fit for happiness.”
  6. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know why I can’t be like normal people.”
  7. “Connell is a person who doesn’t care about being cool. He’s a person who likes to be happy.”
  8. “The texture of the world, its filigree and scrollwork, means that there is the possibility for beauty here, a beauty inexhaustible in its complexity, which opens to my knock, which answers in me a call I do not remember calling, and which trains me to the wild and extravagant nature of the spirit I seek.”
  9. “He’s a person who feels things strongly in his chest, not just in his head.”
  10. “In the end, the pain of leaving always outweighs the pain of staying.”

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About the Author “Sally Rooney”

Sally Rooney is an Irish author known for her acclaimed novels “Conversations with Friends” and “Normal People,” which have garnered widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. She was born on February 20, 1991, in Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland. Rooney studied English at Trinity College Dublin, where she earned a master’s degree in American literature.

Rooney’s writing style is characterized by its sharp, incisive prose and nuanced characterizations. Her novels often explore themes of class, power, gender, and sexuality, and are marked by their acute observations of the complexities of human relationships. Rooney’s work has been compared to that of other contemporary writers such as Zadie Smith and Elena Ferrante, both of whom have praised her writing.

Rooney’s debut novel, “Conversations with Friends,” was published in 2017 to critical acclaim. The novel follows two college students in Dublin, Frances and Bobbi, who become involved in a complex relationship with a married couple, Melissa and Nick. The novel was praised for its intelligent dialogue and complex characters, and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.

Rooney’s second novel, “Normal People,” was published in 2018 and became a cultural sensation. The novel tells the story of Marianne and Connell, two teenagers from different social classes who fall in love and navigate the complexities of their relationship over the course of several years. “Normal People” was longlisted for the Booker Prize, and was adapted into a popular television series in 2020.

Rooney’s work has received numerous accolades, including the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and the Costa Book Award for Best Novel. She has been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list and Time magazine’s 100 Next list. Rooney is widely regarded as one of the most talented and exciting young writers working today, and her work continues to captivate readers around the world.

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Conclusion and Rating

In conclusion, “Normal People” is a powerful and emotionally resonant novel that explores the complexities of human relationships with insight and nuance. Sally Rooney’s writing is incisive and sharp, and her characters are complex and fully realized, making the novel a compelling and engaging read from beginning to end. Through the story of Marianne and Connell, Rooney deftly explores themes of class, power, love, and the ways in which our pasts shape our present.

Rating: 4/5 stars. The novel is a masterful work of contemporary fiction that will linger in the reader’s mind long after the last page has been turned. Whether you are a fan of literary fiction or simply looking for a powerful and thought-provoking read, “Normal People” is a book that should not be missed.

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