When a book receives as much hype as Sally Rooney’s Booker longlisted, Costa winning and Waterstones winning novel, it can have a reverse reaction for me. The book sounds like it’s being over-hyped. I begin to think that it can’t possibly live up to expectations. I tend to actively avoid such titles.
But then, I heard an interview with Rooney, and thought I should give it a go. I picked up a copy over Christmas to add to my teetering pile(s) of unread books, and this week settled down to it.
I confess that I really enjoyed it.
The novel is the story of Connell and Marianne, following them from their school days in a small Irish town, through to their time in Trinity College Dublin.
Connell is one of the cool kids – centre forward for his school’s football team and hanging out with the similar types. He’s also smart, doing well in his exams. He has been brought up by his single mother who earns a living as a cleaner at Marianne’s house. Marianne goes to the same school as Connell and is also very smart. But she’s not one of the cool kids. She’s alone at school – perhaps even aloof. Her family has money, but that doesn’t matter – and she’s not part of scene.
Connell and Marianne develop a secret relationship; a relationship that Connell is unwilling to make public for fear of humiliation in front of his peers.
Later, when they’re at university, the tables are turned. Marianne is much more in her element, and it’s Connell who has become more of an outsider.
The novel is told is short fragmentary pieces; we jump a few weeks here – a few months there. Marianne and Connell’s relationship is complex, and their intentions don’t always make sense. But that’s real life, and their story does feel “real.”
I’ve seen some reviews suggest more of this tale
Is the book over-hyped? Quite probably. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good book. I enjoyed it enormously, and it had a very satisfactory conclusion.