I Love Sally Rooney, But She Makes Me Anxious

Her writing is authentic yet pretentious; artless yet affected

Richa Bhattarai

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Connell, the protagonist of Sally Rooney’s novel ‘Normal People’, is reading Jane Austen’s classic Emma one night. The library closes just as he reaches the passage where Mr. Knightly is preparing to marry Harriet. Not knowing the outcome, he must walk home “in a state of strange emotional agitation.”

That phrase sums up, also, Irish author Rooney’s second novel. Normal People will put readers in a state of abnormal anxiety and heightened unease. It will bring to mind first loves and passionate infatuations; sensual encounters and bodily frustrations. The novel holds a certain power, a sly, uncommon draw that goes much deeper than its mundane tone.

There is only one thread of a story, a well-worn one at that. Popular boy and the uncool girl have a fling in school, that unravels because of the boy’s refusal to acknowledge the relationship. In college, the girl suddenly turns into a sparkling swan. How, we shall never know. Why, we daren’t ask. But anyway, she is now a head turner, while the boy is suddenly unpopular among her friends and his. He grapples with depression, she with her own demons. They meet, separate, reconcile, come together, part. That is it, that is the story without any other surprise or…

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