Reactions to ‘Normal People’ the Book + TV Show

Normal People book and tv show

If it hasn’t been clear already, I’ve been blowing through my (and my sister Megan’s) bookshelf with ease since the pandemic started. Since my in office work slowed down for a couple months, I’ve had several hours every day to read and write in between tasks. One of my most surprising discoveries since March is that I actually love fiction! Megan has provided me with many a novel and my newest favorite romance is between Marianne and Connell in Sally Rooney’s Normal People. A couple weeks ago I wrote about Conversations With Friends—Rooney’s debut novel—but Normal People was my first foray into the worlds she creates. I actually started with the Hulu and BBC Three collaboration that stars Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal as the two protagonists who instantly (like from the first 10 minutes) had me sobbing. I was hysterical throughout the remainder of the episodes—especially episodes 3 and 12—which isn’t uncommon for me, but definitely reminded me of my feelings during the magic that is and was Call Me By Your Name (ah to be back in the Spring of 2018). Normal People the show is quite literally a mirror of the novel with regard to dialogue and character movements as Rooney was a main writer and executive producer of the series. The story follows Marianne and Connell, two Irish classmates, throughout their unexpected secret relationship in high school and their ensuing years of on again-off again love and friendship. The book is sectioned into different moments in their lives told from rotating perspectives, so the reader is transported into the minds of both the characters at certain points. Marianne is rich, but extremely outcast in school, while Connell is a popular athlete raised by his working-class single mother who cleans Marianne’s house. After the two discover their shared attraction in each other, they begin a secret romance (mostly decided by Connell who is worried about what his friends will think) that’s filled with young love and devastating heartbreak (chapter and episode 3 shattered my heart). The later chapters follow the pair as they attend the same university and date each other and other people at separate times, all the while remaining in love but unwilling to communicate their feelings fully. The most frustrating part about Normal People is how realistic the story may be for many real life human beings. Marianne and Connell are perfect for each other and have immense love and respect for one another, but are constantly torn apart due to miscommunication that had me wanting to pull my hair out. However, the narrative is absolutely impeccable and tragic and I am wholly obsessed. A main highlight for me is how Rooney showcased mental illnesses in both characters in a way I hadn’t witnessed before, especially when it came to Connell’s crippling depression and therapy sessions. Because the tv show features some of my favorite scenes not in the book and an ending that I found much more satisfying, I would give it 5/5 stars, while the book gets 4.5/5 due to its slightly rushed end. If you want to obliterate your heart and question everything you know about love and companionship, read and watch Normal People!

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