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