Okay so let’s talk about normal people, I know it’s been discussed by so many before me and is a million copy bestseller but for some reason I had been putting it off for so long. I watched the tv adaption on BBC which I did enjoy, I loved Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Connell and Marianne and for some reason felt I didn’t need to read the book as the tv programme had been good enough for me but I was wrong…which I don’t / won’t often admit, much to others annoyance.
I usually won’t read a book after I have watched the film or tv adaption and now I’m thinking I have been missing out. Don’t get me wrong, the tv adaption was done very well and in keeping with the book but the book delves deeper into the thoughts of Connell and Marianne, we understand the thoughts behind their words and actions and the small details of their personality and coping mechanisms which aren’t easily translated to other media.
My expectations for this book were well, not really existent. I hadn’t planned on reading normal people despite all the good things I had heard, I guess I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it already knowing the story line but I was pleasantly surprised. By having a better understanding of the characters I found I liked them more, I understood some of their difficulties or who they were as a person at the root of it all and it made them less frustrating and oftentimes more heartbreaking.
I relate to Connell’s persistent need to please and conform to societal expectations but I also liked that he was kind, thoughtful and really cared about Marianne although he didn’t always go about things the right way, he was always willing to do anything for her, especially as he got further away from school life back home unlike any other person in her life. I found myself wanting to be more like Marianne in some aspects for example, the freeing feeling of not caring what others think or say about me, a need for knowledge and being opinionated. However they both have their flaws but that is what makes them ‘normal’. Throughout the story they both want to be accepted in many ways, to be loved and to be happy however this was never easy for them and they seem to overcomplicate and overanalyse their relationship and that mixed with poor communication and misunderstanding was a recipe for disaster. The on and off again nature of a relationship is common in the rom-com genre however I found it particularly frustrating in this book. Both Marianne and Connell had feelings for each other from beginning to end and on a number of occasions they used the L word to describe their feelings. They were happy together but through poor communication on both parts it meant that they were both questioning what the other person meant by what they said causing them to break up and make up over and over.
I found myself waiting for moments between Connell and Marianne as they were often sweet, intimate and honest although they didn’t always end well for either of them you could tell that they really cared for each other and truly felt themselves when they could be together.
The ending of the book gave us hope for Connell in the future and maybe hope that something will stay between them both however with the track record over the years, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I was happy for Connell and how far he has come with the difficulties he had faced over the years and was finally going to do something he really wanted and although he still felt guilty (which he shouldn’t) but is common throughout, there was a positive future ahead for him.
Marianne had strained relationships which was highlighted from the start. Her family relationships were cold, abusive and distant and at school she was bullied for the way she looked and for being different. She had better relationships with with her female friends at university however these were sometime not always healthy and there were a few unhealthy relationships or ‘situations’ with Jamie and Lukas and other men treating her badly, being controlling and violent leaving her feeling used and vacant. I found it discussed these issues although not in depth I felt like it approached them quite well and made the reader think about it and look at it differently as we already cared about Marianne and it was difficult to see her open up to being treated badly as that’s what she felt she deserved which is not true under any circumstance.
I always look for the best in people which is maybe why I liked the characters, to other people they may be annoying and uninteresting but I felt they had good parts and bad parts which they knew of both sides and still cared about each other a lot. Although at times they did frustrate me overall they were a lot more likeable than their ‘friends’ at least.
I would recommend this book however it does have some difficult themes such as depression, bullying, abusive family, violence and suicide I found it was written in a way to not be too heavy but if these are triggers then I would not recommend normal people but I enjoyed the story, the writing, the characters and I enjoyed the commentary the book made on class and society expectations but what I’ll hold onto is the lasting feeling of the book and would give it 4.5 stars!
There is so much I could say about this book and is one that I would probably come back to. Let me know your thoughts on Normal People or any other similar books.