Why are relationships always so complicated? You like a guy, a guy likes you back, and yet there’s a cloud of complexity that just complicates the simplest of relationships. Egos, status, insecurity, inevitably all play a part. Why do we care what our friends think? And why does this insecurity not change when we step into adulthood. When do we grow up and how does the baggage we carry from our past, affect our future? Sally Rooney's Normal People certainly convinces us that our past, present and future are never mutually exclusive. Emotions are like a shadow, always following us wherever we go. We can't shed their existence, but if we try really hard, perhaps we can forget that they exist...if only for a little while.
Love binds us in ways that we cannot explain. A sense of belonging becomes a crutch to the fulfilment of our own expectations. And if all this insecurity is not recognized and addressed, it can cause an emotional upheaval that is constantly rocking us out of balance.
Normal people feels a little too normal. It felt like I was reliving the emotional centrifuge of my younger life. At first glance, each character seems to have a normalcy surrounding them. Marianne and Connell have known each other since high school. One comes from a privileged upbringing, the other does not. Connell's mother cleaned house for Marianne's family. They went to the same school but never acknowledged one another in front of other school mates, even though they were "friends" outside. Sure there was an imbalance of status, but was that the real reason?
Years later Connell had a conversation with Marianne:
"It's funny the decisions you make because you like someone, he says, then your whole life is different. We were at that weird age, where life can change a lot from small decisions. But you've been a very good influence on me overall, like definitely I'm a better person now, I think. Thanks to you."
Marianne was a different person in school. She thought of herself as "not normal". She didn't have any friends and really valued her strange friendship with Connell. With young, teenage hormones racing, it's only natural that the friendship would change into intimacy.
She accepted what she had with Connell in their private moments, never asking for more. Never questioning why. Perhaps it was something in her that men wanted to dominate. Sometimes the desire for domination can look so much like attraction, can't it? That's what she construed later in life.
"In school, the boys had tried to break her with cruelty and disregard, and in college the men had tried to do it with sex and popularity, all with the same aim of subjugating some force in her personality. It depressed her to think that people were so predictable."
As a literary read delving into the slice of life, Sally Rooney's brilliant prose is refreshing, like adding a slice of lemon to your glass of ordinary water. The book had generated quite a buzz, before even being released. It is not for everyone though. It requires a patience to peruse through the prose, and a dedication to see the novel through to the end...although there may (or may not) be an ah-ha moment at the end.