Author: Sally Rooney
Finished on: 5 March 2020
Where did I get this book: A book club read
When we guess what another person is thinking based on their behaviour and expressions, we are only right 20% of the time. Even with those closest to us, our dearest friends and family, this figure only increases to 35%.
I found myself thinking about this, information I learnt this from Will Storr’s brilliant book The Science of Storytelling, a lot as I read Normal People.
This is a story that revolves around Marianne and Connell, who have been friends – and more – since their childhood growing up in the same small town. At times, they seem to know each other as well as its possible for any two people to. But they definitely fit the pattern of misunderstanding a good 65% of what the other person feels and intends.
It’s a beautifully written book – Rooney has one of those delicious narrative voices that seems effortless, and keeps the pages turning long after you should’ve turned off the light.
We have an advantage over Marianne and Connell as they’re trying to understand each other – Rooney gives us an intimate understanding of both these flawed people as they move through their lives. They’re both deeply weird, both wish to be ‘normal people’ at one point or another. But the whole book serves as reminder, if one were needed, that everyone is deeply weird when you strip away whatever veneer of normality they’ve managed to construct.
There’s no point trying to be normal. And treasure the people who love and know you best. Those are the lessons at the heart of Normal People. Even if the people who know you best only know you 35% of the time.