Like many of you our LBF team is apart at the moment. Our book club is not only designed to bring us together through our shared love of books but also connect us with the greater online publishing community. Sally Rooney’s Normal People was chosen by Helen Clifford. Enjoy.
Normal People Book and TV Adaptation Review
by Helen Clifford, Marketing Manager
I was nervous before embarking on the BBC’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People.
It felt like it would be an invasion of the intimate relationship I had been in when reading the book, which is testament to Sally Rooney’s writing and the power of the novel. When you read Normal People you join Marianne and Connell as the unseen participant in the teenage tryst.
I needn’t have worried. The BBC drama adapted by Sally Rooney and Alice Birch, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie MacDonald, wonderfully brought the characters to life, and through all twelve episodes delivered a charming adaptation. We can, therefore, review the book and TV adaptation in union: much like the inseparable bonds of Connell and Marianne’s relationship, the two are so closely woven. It’s the story and characters that matter, more than then medium, making the adaptation a seamless segue.
Normal People has undoubtedly captured the hearts of a nation in lockdown, widely revered and praised by many who are obsessed with the lovers’ story. The show has reportedly broken a BBC record with 16.2 million iPlayer searches, and over 21.8 million for BBC Three. Elsewhere Connell’s chain necklace has attracted so much attention it has even been bestowed its own Instagram account! Perhaps the first time an inanimate object has its own dedicated fan base…
Normal People, through its central characters of Marianne and Connell, explores the first flurries of love, the complexity of class and social pressures of school. The reader and, most recently, the viewer experiences the ups and downs, the heartache, all against the backdrop of the wild Atlantic coastline of rural Ireland and romantic scholarly setting of Trinity Dublin.
At the heart of the story is the relationship between Marianne and Connell – he is popular, whilst she is considered a loner. Both highly intelligent, Marianne appears to care little what her peers think of her with the exception of Connell. Connell, in turn, takes anyone else’s feeling and opinions into consideration apart from those of the one person who most adores him, Marianne.
Despite this, their bond is unbreakable and as they move through high school and then university, people and the pressures of life, they find themselves navigating back to one another again and again. Both characters undergo a journey of self-discovery, manoeuvring misunderstanding, miscommunication and their feelings to end up in a situation of mutual understanding, love and respect.
It’s a story about growing up and coming to terms with one’s self – which is possibly why is has attracted such a following. We can all find similarities with some of the experiences, and identify with the characters, their struggles, desires, and relationships.
It’s the type of book that once you finish you immediately pass to a friend and say, ‘have you read this?’, partly because you are left feeling so bereft you need someone to go through the same experience in order to help you through. Now we’re asking ‘have you watched it?’, followed closely by ‘wasn’t it just absolutely perfect? Just like the book, heart-breaking!’ We get to relive the emotional roller-coaster once again, frame by frame, because the adaptation has so masterfully brought the page to life for us in twelve divine episodes.
To some, perhaps, it’s an odd reaction to feel so affected by a book and a TV programme, but if Sally Rooney, Marianne and Connell have taught us anything, it is that it is perfectly normal to be an avid observer of human behaviours, relationships and people.
If you haven’t read/watched it yet, then enjoy taking the leap into a journey not dissimilar to that of first love, with all its joys, excitement and heartache a plenty.