Friday, September 21, 2018

Sally Rooney: 'Normal People' (2018)

Sally Rooney, Normal People (London: Faber & Faber, 2018). Rooney's second novel is even better than her first. 

Again, no dialogic quotation marks. Again, simple character names: Marianne; Denise (Marianne's oddball mother); Alan (Marianne's violent, weirdo brother); Connell Waldron; Lorraine (Connell's mother); Rachel Moran; Eric; Rob; Helen; Gareth; Joanna; Colleen; Niall; Elaine; Peggy; Jamie; Lukas; Yvonne, and others. The most playful name in Normal People must surely be Sadie Darcy-O'Shea's.

The nature of Marianne and Connell's interconnecting relationships to themselves and others provides the main dynamic of the novel, which is again mostly, but not always, set in Ireland, particularly in Dublin and in County Sligo, with interludes "outside Trieste" (page 157) and in Sweden. 
Marianne and Connell: "as if they were acting out an argument in which both sides were equally compelling, and they had chosen their positions more or less at random, only in order to have the discussion out." (page 174)

There are many simple sentences that stick to mind. Such as: "The cherries glow dimly on the trees." (page 179)

There are plenty of arguments, varying in their intensity. 
Helen: "Why do you have to act so weird around her?"
Connell: "How I act with her is my normal personality . . . Maybe I'm just a weird person." (page 214)

Marianne responds to a Facebook feed in her mind: "What did these messages, these advertisements of loss, actually mean to anyone? What was the appropriate etiquette when they appeared on the timeline: to 'like' them supportively? To scroll past in search of something better?" (page 226) Indeed, what is the aim of social media on a daily basis, in the service of communicating with others?

And finally: "Who were you? she thinks, now that there's no one left to answer the question . . . Her mother and brother are at work all day and Marianne has nothing to do but sit in the garden watching insects wriggle through soil." (page 227)

But plenty of stuff does happen, well beyond watching insects. Rooney gets at it all quite well. 

Today's Rune: Signals.  

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