When I heard that Normal People had already been snapped up by the BBC with author Sally Rooney in charge of the screenplay, I wasn’t surprised. It’s one of those books that reads like a film. I mean that as a compliment. Not many authors are able to create so much tension in the space of a few lines. The novel’s main characters Marianne and Connell are about as flesh and blood as you can get between the pages of a book. The story is an intimate invitation into the intertwined lives of two teenagers. Rooney’s quiet and observational style makes you an onlooker of a painfully realistic, at times awkward but always magnetising relationship. What starts as a mutual albeit unexpected attraction, turns into something more intense as the pair try to navigate through popularity contests, class tensions and their transition from school into university and eventually real life. What makes Normal People quite so exceptional - as you might of guessed - is not a twisting and turning plot line (in fact, the narrative is quite straightforward) but Rooney’s ability to capture the way people talk, feel and react. The little dramas that play out in Marianne and Connell’s lives are so accessible they feel almost nostalgic. If Rooney’s talent as a screenwriter is anything as good as her strength as a character writer, then we’re all in for a treat when Normal People hits the small screen.
Normal People, Sally Rooney. Faber & Faber, 2018.