This Normal People book review gives you the details of this highly acclaimed character-driven love story with book club questions for discussion. And because this is a book pairings blog “where books meet lifestyle,” I have also provided the trailer for the Hulu tv series adaptation and recommended pairings for further learning.
Normal People Book Review
- NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
- ONE OF THE TEN BEST NOVELS OF THE DECADE—Entertainment Weekly
- TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR—People, Slate, The New York Public Library, Harvard Crimson
- AND BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR—The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, O: The Oprah Magazine, Time, NPR, The Washington Post, Vogue, Esquire, Glamour, Elle, Marie Claire, Vox, The Paris Review, Good Housekeeping, Town & Country
Normal People is a book that people either fanatically love or love to hate. I think what it comes down to is whether you are a lover of character-driven versus plot-driven novels. This one is all about character, and despite a lot of darkness, it remains one of my favorite love stories. That being said, lovers of plot-driven rom-coms should probably just pass on this one.
Normal People begins when Connell and Marianne are high school students. Marianne is unpopular, so Connell keeps their budding and very physical relationship a secret. Ultimately, the burden of keeping this secret causes him to make hurtful decisions that push them apart.
When Connell and Marianne start college, Marianne becomes the popular one and Connell has developed into a recluse. As college progresses, Connell and Marianne drift in and out of each other’s lives in ways that push and pull at the reader's emotions and, for better or worse, change the course of each other’s lives. It's a thoughtful novel with some of my favorite literary quotes, including this one, which sums up the relationship of Connell and Marianne, as well as so many of our own relationships:
All these years, they’ve been like two little plants sharing the same plot of soil, growing around one another, contorting to make room, taking certain unlikely positions.
Normal People tackles themes of class, youth, worth/shame, abuse and mental health. It also embraces the highest of highs and the lowest of lows that can be so characteristic of young love.
Normal People Book Club Questions
Below are unique discussion questions for your book club:
Describe Connell and Marianne.
Talk about how Connell and Marianne change over the course of the story.
Did your views of Connell and Marianne change?
Did Connell and Marianne change each other?
Discuss what keeps Connell and Marianne together and what keeps them apart.
What role does age play in Connell's and Marianne's relationship?
What role does class play in Connell's and Marianne's relationship?
What does the title mean to you?
Do you agree with the setting?
Do you think this is more of a love story or a coming-of-age story?
Is Connell's and Marianne's relationship believable?
How does this book handle mental health issues?
What makes this such a memorable love story?
What do you think would happen next?
Did you watch the tv adaptation and, if so, what did you think of it?
For even more discussion questions:
Pairings for Normal People
For more like Normal People:
- Watch the BBC series, Normal People, on HULU. It's heavy, and I could only watch one episode at a time, but it's fantastic.
- Read the books that were read by the characters in Normal People.
- Read books like Normal People, including Rooney's other popular novel, Conversations with Friends.
- Get inspired by the style of the main character, Marianne.
- Listen to the Bad on Paper podcast's book club discussion of Normal People.
Normal People Hulu Trailer
- NOW AN EMMY-NOMINATED HULU ORIGINAL SERIES
I hope this Normal People book review inspires you to pick up this beloved book and "meet" this unforgettable couple.