CBR13 BINGO: Reader’s Choice (in the New Series Square) BINGO! Book Club Square to Machinery Square
I don’t think that I have ever had this much of a love/hate reaction to a book. Truly. Everything that I loved about Rooney’s Normal People is here. All of the awkwardness and raw emotion. Everything that I really didn’t like about Conversations with Friends is here too. All of the self indulgent naval gazing histrionics. Ugh.
The plot is not complex even if the characters think that they are. The entire story revolves around four characters: Alice, Eileen, Simon and Felix. The point of view switches between all of them, but is primarily focused on the women.
Eileen and Simon grew up together and have maintained their relationship into adulthood. Alice and Eileen were roommates in college have continued their friendship into their late twenties. After Alice has a nervous breakdown and is hospitalized, she leaves Dublin for the Irish coast. Here, she meets Felix, a townie, on Tinder and they begin a relationship (I’m using that term very, very loosely here).
Honestly. I don’t have much more to say about it than that. For the most part, it’s about three wildly self unaware people who love to talk about themselves and their feelings in a way that seems very emotionally mature but is so far from reality that its ridiculous. I’m reminded of parties in my post college/graduate school days where a certain group of people always hung out in the kitchen, smoking and talking about philosophy and politics and trying to psychoanalyze everyone. These are those people. Ironically (and maybe this was on purpose?), the townie who works in a warehouse and is presented as a working class stereotype is the only one who has some understanding of who he is: an arrogant pot stirrer who likes to poke at the tender emotional bits of everyone for entertainment. At least he is aware of it.
It’s not that Rooney isn’t a fantastic writer. She is. There is a gorgeous moment where Eileen looks at Simon and memories of their decades long relationship flood her thoughts. I love the way Rooney embraces the awkward and messy parts of love. BUT, I’m afraid that she writes only one kind of book and depending on the characters it could go either way. My fear is that the whole “write what you know” is at play here and what Rooney knows is young intellectual Irish people who love to talk about themselves and their feelings when they have no idea who they are or what they feel.