Two teenagers have sexual chemistry and passionately—if awkwardly—hook up.
Such is the deceptively simplistic beginning of Normal People, an exceptional new novel by Irish writer Sally Rooney.
The teenagers in question are Connell and Marianne, living in a small town in Ireland in 2011. Rooney’s second novel after 2017’s Conversations with Friends is, on its surface, a will they-won’t they romance. Dig a little deeper, though, and it’s a fascinating examination of class differences and shifting power dynamics.
Marianne is quirky and friendless, while Connell is a popular athlete. Marianne comes from a wealthy, cold and unloving family, while Connell is the only child of a strong, kind single mother who makes her living cleaning Marianne’s family home.