Normal People








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I wanted to love this book and that is always a recipe for disaster, but sometimes that much-hyped book lives up to all expectations and I was hoping that this book would do just that. “Salinger for the Snapchat generation: critics unite to praise 27-year-old novelist” was the headline for one review I read. I guess I should have been wary from the get-go – I don’t like Salinger and I am not from the Snapchat generation.

I didn’t dislike the book. I liked Normal People, but I didn’t love it. I can’t say that I enjoyed it because it isn’t a book that you ‘enjoy’.

In a nutshell, the story is of a relationship between two people, Connell and Marianne. We are introduced to the two characters while they are in high school and we follow their lives through to adulthood.

In high school, Marianne is wealthy, beautiful, skinny, smart but a social outcast. Connell is poor, gorgeous, athletic, intelligent and popular. The two are drawn together and start an illicit affair. Connell is terrified that people will find out that the two are sleeping together and makes Marianne swear that she won’t tell anyone. Marianne adores Connell and keeps his secret. The reason why she does this becomes apparent as the book progresses.

The two go off to university and the tables are turned. Marianne is suddenly popular and sought after and Connell, due to his shyness, finds it hard to make friends. The two find themselves drawn together once again and begin a relationship. Though Connell adores and loves Marianne, there always feels like an imbalance of power. It would appear that Marianne needs Connell more than he needs her. Of course, this is quite a simplistic view and the relationship is much more than this. Over the years the two find themselves in relationships with other people. Marianne finds she has a masochistic streak and this takes her into some relationships that are far from healthy. From the outside, Connell appears to have a healthy relationship with his dull girlfriend but has he chosen the safe route to make himself believe he is happy.

The book focuses a lot on Marianne and that she feels she isn’t worthy to be loved by another person. Rooney allows the reader to believe that this is because she comes from an abusive, cold and unloving family. Personally, I felt Connell had a lot to answer for when it came to Marianne’s insecurities. Marianne’s first relationship was with Connell where she was sworn to secrecy because Connell was embarrassed and ashamed that he was sleeping with Marianne. I was also offended when later in the book Connell was “disappointed” in Marianne and use the word, “spinelessness” to describe her when Connell was the epitome of “spinelessness” as far as I was concerned.

Rooney touches on bullying in her book. I thought she made some excellent insights and her writing in certain parts of the book where bullying was addressed was thoughtful and beautiful.

You learn nothing very profound about yourself simply by being bullied, but by bullying someone else, you learn something you can never forget.

As the book progressed, I found myself disliking the two main characters. I couldn’t understand why they were so drawn to each other. I probably disliked Connell more than Marianne. In lots of ways, I understood Marianne’s pain and her intense dislike of herself. I wish she could have learnt to like herself without Connell. I found Connell entirely selfish and indulgent. He said the right things and did the right things, but it never seems to come from a genuine place. I think he was more screwed up than Marianne and that she deserved way better. I never bought into the misunderstood, insecure, anxiety-ridden writer that Rooney made out that Connell was.

Normal People is a well-written book. The dialogue between the characters is thoughtful and beautifully written. I may have missed the whole premise of the book, but it all felt a little too trite for me, and even Rooney’s exceptional writing couldn’t save it (for me). I do think that Rooney is a smart and insightful writer and I did take a lot away from reading this book – just not what everyone else did. I do think she knows how to write emotion and I felt Marianne’s pain intensely. I think we have all been in that dark place where we have felt that we don’t deserve love.

I did find that once I started this novel, it was compelling reading, but I don’t think I was mesmerised by the Connell and Marianne love story.


Weekly Update

I started this blog because over the years I have written reviews in notebooks, but it has been a haphazard affair. I thought by writing my thoughts into a blog there would be more of a consistent approach and I would be able to have all my thoughts in one place.

In lots of ways it a journal (but a public one), so I  thought I might jot other ideas down as well and then at the end of the year or through the year, I can look back on what I was enjoying at the time.

Book I’m Reading

Normal People : Winner of the 2018 Costa Prize for Best New Novel - Sally Rooney

At the moment I am reading Normal People by Sally Rooney. This book came recommended to me by a friend. On looking into the book, I realised that it was a BIG deal and I wondered why I hadn’t heard about it. Upon ‘googling’ I discovered that Sally Rooney is the next big thing. I bought the book, but for some reason, I was hesitant to start reading, probably because I am always terrified that it won’t live up to expectations.

I am enjoying the book and I am engaged with the two characters – Connell and Marianne. I do like that the two characters are sensitive, intelligent and yet awkward and unsure. I know this book has received rave reviews and I am probably halfway through so I will refrain from commentary too much because at this point in the book I don’t understand the hype that it has received. On saying that, I do love the character, Lorraine, Connell’s mother – she’s smart, sassy, kind and knows the difference being right and wrong. I like that she’s a young single mum and she provides Connell with a strong moral compass.  I am halfway through the book, but I am sensing where the book is heading, but let’s wait and see if I’m right.

Books I’ve Read

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I first read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty on my kindle. I will often read books on my kindle that I want to read but which I don’t think I will love and want a hard copy of. How mistaken was I! I loved this book. I believe that this is Liane Moriarty BEST book. Forget Big Little Lies! 

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. 

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

This book makes me laugh out loud and considering the topics include infertility, divorce, amnesia and death it shouldn’t, but Moriarty manages to write a book that is both beautifully moving and absolutely hilarious.

I like Liane Moriarty’s books but I’m not a HUGE fan but I love this book. I love this book enough to go out and buy a hard copy for my collection. The characters are funny, endearing and likeable. The story is told by three characters and Moriarty weaves these three voices masterfully. 

‘Busy,’ repeated Alice. She didn’t like the sound of that at all. She had always had a slight mistrust of busy people; the sort of people who described themselves as ‘Flat out! Frantic!’ What was the hurry? Why didn’t they slow down? Just what exactly were they so busy doing?’

Do yourself a favour and read it.

Shows I’m Watching

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At the moment I am feeling frustrated with television. I love TV. Before Netflix I loved TV. I have always been a TV addict. At the moment though I spent most of my time trying to find a show that isn’t centred on violence or drugs. That isn’t dark and depressing. I do watch these shows, but I need something lighter at the moment. 

I am re-watching Hart of Dixie which is absolutely delightful. I loved this show when I watched it the first time and I love it even more on my second viewing. I love that it isn’t dark and depressing. I love that the characters aren’t super bitchy. I love that the clothes in the show are fun. I love that it is funny, witty and charming. I love the setting – absolutely gorgeous. I like a show that is set in a small town with wacky characters and this is Hart of Dixie.  What I love about Hart of Dixie is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously – a show doesn’t need to be pushing boundaries – sometimes all a viewer wants is to be entertained.

I am on the third season of four seasons and I am not sure what I will do when I have finished watching this light-hearted but adorable show. I am told that Jane the Virgin may fit my bill, but I am going to miss Bluebell. I seriously want to find a real-life Bluebell and move there.

Latest adventure

Recently we took a trip to Brisbane for the weekend. We stayed at the Next Hotel in the city or the old Lennon’s Hotel. The hotel was superb. The staff were friendly and accommodating and made the trip a great one. The hotel is smack bang in the Brisbane mall, so getting around the CBD was a breeze. Next Hotel is centrally located, but it has a lovely feel. You would walk into the hotel, up the escalators and the busyness of the city would disappear. We were lucky enough to upgrade to a King room and the King bed was HUGE and comfortable. 

On Friday night we made our way to Caxton Street and had dinner at Brewski Bar. I had a Brewski Beef burger which was delicious and my partner had a vegan cheeseburger which he declared was delicious. A big call from a discerning vegetarian. The service was friendly and relaxed. We will definitely be paying a return visit.

On Saturday we managed to fit in a walk to Southbank and after dinner, on Saturday night we made our way to the City Botanic Gardens to view the fig trees lit up with fairy lights (opposite the Goodwill Bridge). I have seen all the photos on Instagram and I wanted to look at the trees. They were beautiful!

It was a fun trip and of course, we visited one or two bookshops as well.