I had started reading Normal People quite some time ago but put it down for long enough that when I was ready to start reading it again, I decided to just start over, and I think that helped my enjoy the book more. The re-read of part of the book helped me understand the characters in a way that I hadn’t the first time I started reading it.
At this point, probably most people know the plot. Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron grew up in the same small Irish town and attended school together, but they outwardly seem to have little in common. Marianne comes from a wealthy family and is an outcast at school. Connell is a popular soccer player at school, and his mother cleans the Sheridans’ house. But they form a loose friendship and then become more than friends. The book follows them from their last year in high school through much of their time in college. Throughout, their friendship and romance with each other are off-and-on, but they always return to each other’s orbit and rely on each other.
I have to say I don’t quite get the hype. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t the amazing read that I expected it to be. Maybe I was expecting too much at that point, after having heard about it for so long and seen so many reviews. By the end of the novel, I felt I knew Marianna and what drove her much more than I did Connell. It was pretty clear how her past traumas were informing her self-esteem and some of her behavior. I’m not entirely sure who Connell is, though. Also, the ending left a lot to be desired, with the change in Marianne seeming far too rushed, and the reason for the change to me wasn’t believable.
I also wish more people had mentioned the lack of quotation marks. I spent a lot of the book trying to figure out what it symbolized and why Rooney made the choice not to use quotations in dialogue. It turns out that’s just a style she prefers and didn’t have anything to do with the book itself. It didn’t bother me the way it seems to have bothered some people, though. It was still very readable.
The second book I’m reviewing is The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey. It’s the first in a series of loosely related books about the fantasy world of The Five Hundred Kingdoms. Elena grew up in the kingdom of Otraria. She has essentially become the servant of her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and they call her Elle Cinders. It’s clearly the beginning of a Cinderella tale, except of course, it’s not. Elena meets a fairy godmother who is the fairy godmother for all of Otraria and several other kingdoms within the Five Hundred Kingdoms. She explains that when people’s lives begin to resemble a fairy tale (e.g., having an evil stepmother) a kind of magic known as The Tradition tries to further drive that person’s life down the expected fairy tale path, but it doesn’t always work out. In Elena’s case, the prince of the kingdom was still only a child, but Elena is 21 when the novel starts.
Elena becomes apprentice to Bella, the Fairy Godmother. She learns to use the magic that has accumulated around her as a result of The Tradition. She learns about how to encourage fairy tales to work out or how to change them (e.g., how to prevent instances of Ladderlocks, or what we know as Rapunzel, which tends to result in lots of princes dying before the princess is rescued).
I’m a big fan of Mercedes Lackey, so it doesn’t take much for me to enjoy one of her novels. I liked the subversion of some of the fairy tales and the new spin on others. It’s not a groundbreaking book, and I’m not sure I’m interested enough to read the other books in the series since they aren’t about Elena, but the book was entertaining, and Lackey is good at world-building.