I watched Normal People because everyone was raving about it. And so am I now! I loved the series, and then I loved the book. I watched the TV adaptation before I read the book, which probably means that I liked the series even more than I would’ve otherwise. Both the book and the series are deep and relatable, not light or funny, but addictive.
Normal People follows the lives of Marianne and Connell from the last months of secondary school until the end of their bachelor’s studies. It focuses on their relationship which travels from classmates to lovers to strangers to friends to …. well, read the book.
Normal People: The Book
Normal People isn’t your typical love story. It’s slightly dark, passionate and refreshingly original. It deals with mental health, domestic abuse and the subtleties of class. It delves into first love and everything that stands in its way: pride, reputation, shyness, and sometimes the pure stupidity of youth. The sex scenes are very well written.
The most addictive aspect of Sally Rooney’s second novel is the electricity between the two main characters. No matter how many times Connell and Marianne are separated, they find their way back to each other again. I don’t know why some people say it isn’t a love story. To me, it’s a story of love, attraction, youth and growing up, of finding one’s place in the world. Most people probably aren’t in touch with their first love by the time they reach adulthood, but this isn’t the case for our main characters. They seem to become more deeply attached to one another as time goes by.
Normal People: The Series
The series is beautifully written and stars Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, both exceptional actors with good chemistry. Naturally, I had Daisy and Paul in mind when reading the novel. Of course, the series doesn’t follow everything that happens in the book precisely, but it’s still very faithful to it. It adds certain aspects that aren’t present in the book, like giving us a bit more of their time in secondary school than the book, which is helpful for understanding how their complex relationship began.
Marianne’s relationship with her family is softened, as is the one with Lukas. Peggy is less significant, and the scene involving Miss Neary is downplayed. The series isn’t any worse for these minor changes. It’s a remarkably good TV adaptation of a novel, much more faithful than your average TV adaptation and definitely more enjoyable for the people who have actually read the book.
Stop reading now if you don’t want major spoilers!
What does the ending mean, though?
What is implied in the book is clearly said in the series: Marianne encourages Connell to go to the US to study, and he agrees. He wants them to stay together, says it’s only a year and that he’ll be back. Marianne, however, doesn’t seem to want to be in a long-distance relationship with him. Why? Why now when they are finally grown up enough to be able to admit that they love each other and actually be together? I totally agree that he should take the chance to study abroad, but still! They seem to be letting each other go just when they have finally established a healthy relationship and become a normal couple. Maybe being normal people just isn’t their thing.
This could be a good opportunity for a second book. The ending is also intentionally open to the reader’s interpretation. Will they stay in touch? Will he come back to Ireland or will she follow him to the States? Will they finally break up for good? I want answers! I’d totally read a second novel if there was one. Have you read Normal People or seen the series? Are you a fan?