My rating: 2/5 stars
I am really struggling to know where to start with this book other than the fact that I wasn’t a fan. This is the lowest rating I have given on my blog and I was in two minds whether to even review it because I know this novel is loved by many. I decided that my low scoring review wouldn’t harm the already great success of the novel and that my opinion was worth sharing.
It is fair to say that this book was disappointing. I read this purely because of the hype, and I have now learnt my lesson. I love a romance novel but this style of romance just really wasn’t for me.
The premise of the novel was sound enough, and I loved the idea of following the characters through the years and seeing how they developed but I didn’t feel that this novel went far enough with this concept. The only novel I have read that I can compare it to is David Nicholls’ One Day as this also follows the same two character through the years. However, in Normal People the time jumps seemed random and there were still flashbacks to the time gaps, I felt that the time within the novel was very disorganised and I kept having to check where we were in the timeline.
The book follows the characters of Marianne and Connell but I felt that they weren’t developed enough. There were quick mentions of their past but I just felt that this could have been explained more and would have made them into much more likeable characters. I felt sorry for Marianne throughout the whole novel and I felt that she was often being taken advantage of, even by Connell. The characters didn’t develop much from their school age characters and their immaturity never seemed to leave them.
One thing I will say is that Connell and Marianne’s romance was very real. It had its highs and lows and had an element to it that those who have been in on/off relationships may related to. However, for me their romance was frustrating. There were constant issues with miscommunication that could have easily been fixed in an adult relationship. They frequently misunderstood each other and it was never cleared up in a conversation so they just ended up falling out. Although in a real relationship these things do happen, as adults they should have had discussion to make sure they understood each other.
I have read reviews in which people don’t like the fact that Normal People has no speech marks. This didn’t bother me and I have recently read Girl, Woman, Other which also does not have speech marks so this style didn’t take too much getting used to. It made the thoughts of the characters and their speech almost intertwine which was quite a nice touch as both characters thought deeply and often.
After finishing this book yesterday I started watching the TV adaptation and already I can tell I prefer it. I think this novel is better as a TV show where you can see the characters and it helps you to understand their actions by seeing facial expressions. It also helped that I preferred the character of Connell in the TV series, as in the book, especially while he was at school, I disliked him and the way he treated Marianne and wouldn’t speak to her in front of others.
Overall I was let down by this novel. Important topics such as domestic abuse and mental illness are touched on but never developed and I though that was a shame as these are topics that need to be spoken about more. In general, I personally felt, that the novel needed more development and more background knowledge would have been helpful for the reader to truly understand the characters.