Conversations with Friends

Adam Mars-Jones writes:

The blandness of Sally Rooney’s novels, last year’s Conversations with Friends and her new one, Normal People, begins and ends with those oddly non-committal titles. Inside the books her territory is classic – the love relationships of young people – but mapped with an unusual scrupulous smoothness. The characters are brainy, even startlingly so, but she doesn’t exalt their intelligence or flaunt her own. At the beginning of Normal People, Connell and Marianne are contemporaries at school in Carricklea, Sligo, but hardly friends, partly because Marianne is used to abrasive dealings with the world, and may actively prefer them that way. Rejected by her mother and brother (her father is dead), she can hardly be said to have such a thing as a self-image. She sees her reflection in the mirror in virtually non-human terms: ‘It’s a face like a piece of technology, and her two eyes are cursors blinking … It expresses everything all at once, which is the same as expressing nothing.’

(LRB 27 September 2018)

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