Normal People follows two characters – Marianne and Connell – through adolescence and into early adulthood, and they begin by being the kind of uber-precocious teenagers who read Proust and Marx for fun. It took a while for me to settle into their story.
The story is really just about the two of them and their relationship. In high school, Marianne is a smart and wealthy girl, but is socially ostracized and emotionally abused at home, whereas Connell is working class, but very popular. Connell’s mum works as a cleaner for Marianne’s family. They begin a secret sexual relationship that falls apart when Connell fears his friends will find out. The compelling dynamic between them drives the story– issues of class and social status cause much conflict.
In college, the two meet again. This time, Marianne is popular, and Connell is feeling increasingly depressed. The two of them lean on each other time and again as they move through a social world filled with social expectations.
“I’ m not a religious person but I do sometimes think God made you for me.”
There’s clear criticism of our constant need to impress and perform for others in a world that grows ever more connected. Much of the tragedy that befalls Marianne and Connell is caused by other people, peer pressure and social expectations. It is very sad to think that someone might give up who they love the most because they can’t deal with how it makes them look to others.
The pair’s inability to adequately communicate is frustrating but feels realistic. I was on the verge of tearing my hair out at all the things left unsaid in this book, but I think it was a good kind of frustration. The kind that comes from caring too much. It’s a weird, awkward, depressing novel about a connection formed between two very different people who find exactly what they need – and perhaps a lot that they don’t – in each other.
Have you read this book ?? Are you planning to read this book ?? Let’s chat in the comments section . XOXO