My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: April 16th, 2019
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Literary Fiction, Romance, College, Coming of Age, Bullying, Popularity
This book did not affect me in the same way it seems to have affected other people. It did not make me angry, or sad, and did not move me, really. That is because I never cared for Marianne or Connell. Sometimes I even hated them. Usually, I do. Usually, I care about the protagonists I read about, especially when they show their vulnerabilities to me. And I did enjoy reading about this on-and-off (almost) couple. Because they are so, so humanly flawed. But they are not exactly likeable.
Sally Rooney is a great storyteller. There was barely a story to tell, the focus being on the relationship between Marianne and Connell and their relationships with the other people in their lives. And yet I was hooked from the very first page. I found this author’s writing close to perfect—a different style, but one that worked perfectly in my opinion. The lack of quotations marks for dialog may annoy some, but after reading Tin Man, I was ready for something like this to happen again and I’ve learned to navigate such stories better. If you pay attention, you will not be confused. If you skim, probably.
I also found this story very atmospheric, whimsical. It spans over three years in the life of Marianne and Connell, during which they both grow, experience, learn, realize and fall apart. I liked the pacing and narration so much I would not have minded this book being at least a hundred pages longer. It’s a quietly dark and sometimes depressing little literary work, what with the many serious themes creeping up the surface (abuse, submission, depression, loneliness, heartbreak…) but never overwhelming and always interesting.
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