I read Normal People this weekend. Most of my male readers will not know what this book is and since my female readers are imaginary this post will not be highly read. Spoilers included!
Before I dive into the particulars, I don’t read novels because I don’t think I enjoy or appreciate ‘good’ writing. Fiction feels, for lack of a better phrase, like a waste of time.
I rolled my eyes at the SECOND PARAGRAPH about the teaspoon of chocolate. To me, this was an example of why I don’t like novels. That sentence didn’t add anything to the story! This book, in theory, could’ve been 100 pages shorter if you removed the gobbledygook. Some will say that stuff is WHY the book is good, but that’s why I feel I don’t appreciate good fiction writing.
I was almost ready to give up, feeling that my thoughts on novels were validated, but I kept going and it got better.
Here are my quick hits:
- The early story line of Connell being cool and popular while Marianne was hated, then everything flipping when they got to college, was actually really well done and believable.
Specifically the way Connell treated Marianne in high school was very believable. His struggle with it later in the book was thought-provoking to me, as I thought how I’d internally justify it myself. I thought she was moving the story along too quickly when they banged in like the first 20 pages but ultimately it was paced well.
- Their first real breakup was unrealistic.
With how close they were their freshman year, I just don’t buy that they’d lack the communication to have him stay at her place for the summer. It’s such an obvious thing if they’d been staying together every night anyway.
- There was just enough time spent on the side characters for me to feel like I knew them and that they were relevant.
Jamie was my favorite, as any setting with him involved was over the top and hilarious. The champagne glasses were gold. Lorraine was good, Peggy was fine, Connell’s friends were fine, etc.
- There was an overuse of bodily reaction to emotions.
“Connell suddenly couldn’t breath“, “Marianne’s vision started to blur“, “Jamie immediately diarrhea’d” etc. I don’t know about you but these things never happen to me and it happened every other page with these two. Their faces were always ‘hot’ or ‘blushed’. It felt over dramatic.
- I appreciated the reserved use of sexual encounters / language
I thought I was in for another 50 Shades of Grey after the first 25 pages or so, but she did a good job of not over-sexualizing the occasions where they… well, had sex. It was enough to be interesting, but not over the top.
- I struggled to understand the ‘hold’ Connell had over Marianne.
She kept acknowledging that he could do anything or tell her to do anything and she would accept it. It was half sexual but half from a childhood of abuse? Maybe I missed something or am not aware of it in the real world, but this concept of being under someone’s complete control didn’t really make sense to me. The fascination, the existence of it, just didn’t get it.
- Connell becoming depressed and suicidal sort of came out of nowhere.
His friend from home committing suicide and setting him off felt forced. That section of the book was too late and too short for it to feel as meaningful as the author wanted it to be (at least I think).
- I didn’t totally get the ending.
Or maybe I got it, but it just seemed stupid. Just the last two pages really. Out of nowhere Marianne gets super moody / defensive about Sadie and tells him to go to the States alone. Like, HELLO! You’ve been going back and forth for like four years. You FINALLY have a good set up where you’re both on the same page and then you insist that he leaves. Made no sense. “I’ll always be here.” Like…. wat?
- I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have to imagine the TV series stinks.
There was too much subtlety / lack of dialogue in the book that I just don’t see it translating well to the series. I have zero interest in watching the TV series other than to see what the characters look like. The book is better than the series, ha! I’m so cultured!
It was super readable. A real ‘page-turner’ as the people say. Looking back at it nothing that significant really happened, just this constant re-evaluation of their situation and where they stood with one another, but I was pretty into it. Maybe a 7/10? I have no clue.
Hope you enjoyed.