I am a lover of physical books – I’ve tried to be an eBook lover, I gave the old Kindle a whirl for a while but at the end of the day, I always go back to my faithful physical copies. I like the feel of a book in my hands and I like knowing exactly how far away from the next chapter or the end of the book I am at any given point. In spite of this, at the end of December I decided that I’d give audiobooks another go- a lot of the people I follow on social media are big fans of them so I thought I might as well see what all the fuss is all about. It’s fair to say that I have been converted and my first experience with an audiobook, Normal People by Sally Rooney, was a very good one. Normal People was my 2nd read of 2019, after Tell Me A Secret by Jane Fallon.
I will admit that I think I would have loved Normal People irrespective of the format I read it in, but having the story read aloud to me in a charming Irish accent definitely helped me in transporting myself into the story. Normal People, which recently won the Costa Book Awards’ Best Novel, follows the relationship between two young people, Connell and Marianne. Connell and Marianne are not friends, at least not at the start of their story; Connell is popular at school, star of the school football team and top of the class (at least in English) whilst Marianne is isolated and has no friends. Connell’s mother is a cleaner and one of the houses she cleans is Marianne’s family home. When picking his mother up from work, Connell and Marianne begin to form an unlikely friendship – until it’s more than that.
The relationship that forms between Marianne and Connell is intriguing to watch unfold – it follows them from high-school in their small village in Ireland through to University in Dublin and explores how their roles are reversed when they find themselves in unfamiliar territories. Suddenly, it is no longer Connell who is the popular one, with Marianne easily fitting in with their likeminded and equally wealthy university classmates. I found myself laughing aloud at the dialogue between them and worrying about them all within the space of a few minutes. The exploration of two very different characters was expertly done by Sally Rooney and honestly, I found myself a little bit in awe at the writing. I’ve read mixed reviews about this book, strangely, and all I find myself thinking is that I probably won’t read a book as well-written, thoughtful and intriguing as this one throughout the entirety of 2019.
If I do, I’m in for an absolute treat.