The Wonderful World of Sally Rooney

Posted on December 7, 2021

Like many others, over the past year the Tik Tok algorithm has led me into the depths of Book-Tok. Leaving me with countless saved videos and screenshots of books to add to my Amazon wishlist. Among titles such as The Song of Achilles and Where the Crawdads Sing was the small romance novel Normal People. This novel written by Irish author Sally Rooney had me stuck to my couch from the moment I opened it to the moment I closed it. The first thing I noticed about this novel was how distinct Rooney’s writing style was. Initially, I was put off by her lack of quotation marks around speaking parts. But as I got deeper into the novel, the story became a clear picture in my head, and her writing style simply fueled the imagery. Every emotion, spoken or implied, was lifted off the page and embedded into my vision of the characters. By the time I was finished I was frantic to find another novel that would give me the same experience I had just had. I also found myself completely unable to express to my friends what that experience had been. So, in hopes of sharing my experience I started to google the novel and the author, only to find it had been adapted into a hit television series. And as quickly as I had started and finished the book, I was starting and finishing the series. The 12 episode drama starring Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones brought the characters to life. But once I had seen the characters I loved on the page, on the screen, I went searching for my next read.  

Image Credit: Amazon

Normal People follows the lives of two characters Marianne and Connell who grew up in the same small town in Ireland. The story follows the pair as they move through their teenage years into their adult life trying to navigate their feelings for one another but also towards the world around them. Not only does this book beautifully explore themes of love, but it also delves into grief and mental health struggles. With the unexplainable bond between Marianne and Connell as the constant throughline, this novel weaves together the anguish and bliss that comes from the ascent into adulthood. 

After finishing both the novel and the series (twice), I found myself googling Salley Rooney determined to read her other works, which is when I stumbled upon Conversations with Friends, Rooney’s debut novel. 

Image Credit: Amazon

Conversations with Friends follows two young women, Frances and Bobbi as they find themselves entangled in the marriage of an older couple. After meeting the wife through her photography, Frances and Bobbi get drawn into the couple’s world of sophisticated parties and artistic conversations. While Bobbi becomes entranced with the wife, Frances finds herself drawing close with the husband. The novel explores the complexity of relationships of all kinds, highlighting the connection between two friends and how it can be moulded by external factors. This story, similarly to Normal People explores themes of youth and the confusion that comes with entering adulthood. 

With those two novels finished and sitting proudly on the top of my bookshelf, I found myself eagerly anticipating Rooney’s next work. On September 7th 2021, Rooney published Beautiful World, Where Are You. 

Image Credit: Penguin Random House

This novel, sitting patiently on my bookshelf waiting for exam season to come to an end, is summarized to follow four characters Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon. When Alice meets Felix, they find themselves travelling to Rome together. While Eileen and Simon explore a relationship that they have had since childhood. 

And while I am yet to read this novel, I am eager to yet again engulf myself into a world that Sally Rooney has created. To root myself into the minds of characters envisioned by Rooney and the complexity of their emotions and relationships.

Each of Sally Rooney’s novels so far have been stand alone pieces, which is both beautifully fitting for her works, and incredibly frustrating for those of us that just want more time with the characters. Which is how I found myself seeking out each of Sally Rooney’s works, and why I know I will be following her career for years to come.

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