Review: Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Like only she can, in “Beautiful World, Where Are You” Sally Rooney observes, with great exactitude, the birth, decay and resilience of relationships.  

Set against the milieu of Brexit and Trump, Rooney’s novel is, as ever, a subtle masterpiece of construction, alive in its nuances. Its protagonists are two Irishwomen in their late 20s, both involved in romantic entanglements, Alice and Eileen; the former is a famous novelist recovering from a recent psychiatric hospitalization; the latter a poorly paid editorial assistant at a literary magazine in Dublin.

They keep in touch primarily through long, expository emails that philosophise on the current social and political climate. Alice and Eileen are so brilliantly erudite, there’s never a hint of soapboxing; these protracted exchanges are at the core of their friendship. It’s what sustains their relationship. 

“Beautiful World” builds towards Alice and Eileen finally reuniting in person with their partners, exposing feelings coiled just beneath the surface. This culmination feels neither contrived or artificial. That’s Rooney’s gift. Books of this type typically present characters we desire to see together, and a lot of devices to keep them apart. The complexity of the relationships here are rooted in the mundane, as potentially ruinous as anything manufactured by plot.

ISBN: 9780571365432
ISBN-10: 0571365434
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 352
Available: 7th September 2021
Publisher: Faber

The Best Books of 2018 — So Far!


A brilliantly propulsive Australian crime thriller by Chris Hammer; a standout second novel by Irish sensation Sally Rooney; a mile-a-minute, long-time-coming page-turner by Henry Porter; a quietly powerful, wise and humane novel by Anne Tyler; and an empathetic but never sentimental debut by Naima Coster that dares to probe the dynamics of a fractured family: these are my picks for the books that have already made 2018 a stellar year for reading.

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Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

DfUUEAqV4AADjEP.jpgSally Rooney’s ability to recognise and deftly chronicle the nuanced, critical moments of human relationships, is again brought to the fore in Normal People, her brilliant follow-up to last year’s Conversations With Friends.  It takes an unflinching look at the intricate nature of love and friendship, and the impact a person can have on another person’s life. More impressively, it demonstrates the difficulty of communicating with those you care for most, and ultimately how important it is. Normal People is, without question, one of the finest novels of 2018.

This is the story of Connell and Marianne, who grew  up in the same small town in the west of Ireland. Their resemblances end there; turns out you can come from the same place, but still live in very different worlds. But despite their conflicting status’, the two form a connection that grows, and changes, when they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin.

An addictive journey through all the territories of love — familial, romantic, sexual, the love between friends — Normal People charts the relationship of Connell and Marianne with humour, tragedy and deep insights that will make you both laugh and cry. I identified aspects of my own personality in both characters, and recognised some of their mistakes as my own as various relationships ignite, stutter, and ultimately fail. Sally Rooney has that rare gift of being able to write compulsive fiction about, well, normal people, and make their stories resonate long after the book is back on the shelf.

No sophomore slump here; Rooney’s second novel is suffused with the same elements that made Conversations With Friends such a success. I doubt I’ll read a better novel this year — certainly not one that affects me so deeply.


ISBN: 9780571347292
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Imprint: Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publish Date: 6-Sep-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

9780571334247Excitement for Sally Rooney’s debut novel spread like wildfire through Potts Point Bookshop when one of my colleagues began raving about it, calling Conversations With Friends the book for millennial women of 2017.

Honestly, it’s this close to being the book of 2017, period.

A clever, poignant, and true-to-life tale, this story about the entangled affairs of an intelligent but aloof 21-year-old woman from Dublin made me laugh and cry in equal measure. I was so enraptured in the complex relationships between Frances, Bobbi, Melissa and Nick, I read the book in a couple of sittings, and days later, I miss being in the head of Frances.

Frances, a creative-type, performs spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, and have achieved a modicum of success. When acclaimed writer and photographer Melissa approaches the pair to do a profile on them, they accept. It turns out to be a defining moment of their young lives. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her actor husband, Nick; handsome and mysterious, more than a decade older, and seemingly out of hear league. Or maybe not, because as it turns out, Nick shares her affection, and the two begin a passionate affair, complicated not only by his martial status, but stunted affection on his part, and Frances’s own self-doubt. And in the midst of this emotional turmoil — augmented by neglectful parents — Frances is forced to confront a debilitating medical problem.

Conversations With Friends is a moving, emotional masterpiece, coherently detailing the life mood and voice of a contemporary woman. This is no comforting, chocolate-box, Sunday-night TV movie; Rooney’s novel is raw and heartbreaking, punctuated with moments of great triumph and happiness. It is at once light, joyful and emotionally devastating, with a deeply affecting protagonist. A true must read, and one of the best books of the year.

ISBN: 9780571334247
Format: Paperback (216mm x 135mm x 23mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publish Date: 25-May-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom