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Novel set in the West of Ireland and Dublin

14th December 2018

Normal People by Sally Rooney – novel set in the West of Ireland and Dublin.

Sally Rooney is just 27 years old, but she has already written two hugely acclaimed novels.

The first – Conversations with Friends – was described by the Guardian as ‘a menage a quatre in post-crash Dublin that tests the bonds between close friends’ and by the New Yorker as ‘a new kind of adultery’ novel.


The most recent – Normal People – was longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, and as 2018 draws to a close it seems to be topping the list of just about every ‘best novel of the year’ award. The book has been described by the Guardian as ‘a future classic’, and we can already look forward to Normal People being adapted into a BBC TV series by Irish director Lenny Abrahamson.

The author is clearly a force of literary nature. The writing in both novels is whip-smart, the characterisations sensitive, the relationships beautifully developed. And for lovers of TripFiction, Normal People is exquisitely played out in a small community in the west of Ireland, and in the contrasting urban academic jungle of Dublin.

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the West of Ireland, but their young lives are very different.

Connell’s mother Lorraine cleans for Marianne’s family. Connell is smart and popular, Marianne is smart, but friendless and abused by her own brother. Despite everything, Connell and Marianne begin a strange sort of relationship, but it’s one they realise has to be kept secret, for all sorts of youthfully complex reasons.

Both Connell and Marianne go to Trinity College in Dublin, and the story exquisitely follows their lives over the next few years, together and separately as they struggle to understand what each means to the other, and begin to feel their way around the world.

He put his arm around her waist. He had never, ever touched her in front of anyone else before. Their friends had never seen them together like this, no one had.

You’re happy now, he said. You’re smiling.

You’re right, I am happy.

He nodded towards the pool, where Peggy had just fallen into the water, and people were laughing.

Is this what life is like? Connell said.

She looked at his face, but she couldn’t tell from his expression if he was pleased or miserable. What do you mean? she said. But he only shrugged. A few days later he told her that he was leaving Dublin for the summer.

Exploring themes of class, social mobility, friendship, love, sex and domination, every page of Normal People rips out another little piece of your heart.

Ms Rooney tells Connell and Marianne’s story with spare prose, searing dialogue – without quotation marks – and a literary brilliance way beyond her years. For TripFiction fans, small-town Ireland and more sophisticated Dublin are sensitively contrasted, with the protagonists flip-flopping backwards and forwards, as they search for the place they can be happiest.

I can’t wait to see where the author’s fertile mind takes her – and the reader – next, and I’m off now to order her hugely successful debut novel Conversations with Friends.

Thank you, Sally. And I hope it all works out in the end for Marianne and Connell.

Have you read Normal People yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts too. If not, you can buy the book now, through your preferred bookseller, by clicking the button at the bottom of the Normal People book page.

Andrew for the TripFiction team

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