Normal People

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Normal People
First edition cover
AuthorSally Rooney
Audio read byAoife McMahon
GenreNovel (Romance)
Set inDublin and Carricklea, County Sligo[1]
PublisherFaber & Faber
Publication date
30 August 2018
Media typePrint
Awards2019 British Book Award for Book of the Year[2]
LC ClassPR6118.O59 N67 2018

Normal People is a 2018 novel by the Irish author Sally Rooney. Normal People is Rooney's second novel, published after Conversations with Friends (2017). It was first published by Faber & Faber on 30 August 2018.[3] The book became a best-seller in the US, selling almost 64,000 copies in hardcover in its first four months of release.[4] A critically acclaimed and Emmy nominated television adaptation of the same name aired from April 2020 on BBC Three and Hulu. A number of publications ranked it one of the best books of the 2010s.


The novel follows the complex friendship and relationship between two teenagers, Connell and Marianne, who both attend the same secondary school in County Sligo, Ireland, and, later, Trinity College Dublin (TCD). It is set during the post-2008 Irish economic downturn, from 2011 through 2015.[5] Connell is a popular, handsome, and highly intelligent secondary school student who begins a relationship with the unpopular, intimidating, equally intelligent Marianne, whose mother employs Connell's mother as a cleaner. Connell keeps the affair a secret from school friends out of shame, but ends up attending Trinity with Marianne after the summer and reconciling. Well-off Marianne blossoms at university, becoming pretty and popular, while Connell struggles for the first time in his life to fit in properly with his peers. The two weave in and out of each other's lives during their university years, developing an intense bond that exposes their traumas and insecurities.


Normal People received wide critical acclaim.[6] It was longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.[7] It was voted as the 2018 Waterstones' Book of the Year[8] and won "Best Novel" at the 2018 Costa Book Awards.[9] In 2019, the novel was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction.[10] In the same year, it was ranked 25th on The Guardian's list of the 100 best books of the 21st century.[11]

Irish Independent editor Fionnán Sheahan described the book as a polemic, noting that Rooney has described herself as a Marxist and that the book features discussions about The Communist Manifesto document and Doris Lessing's feminist novel The Golden Notebook.[12]

Entertainment Weekly writers ranked the book as the 10th best of the decade, with Seija Rankin writing, "Both of Sally Rooney's novels capture the millennial ethos with raw honesty and impeccable insight. But what she broke ground with in Conversations With Friends, she perfected in Normal People."[13]

In The New York Times, Dwight Garner wrote, "Sally Rooney's sentences are droll, nimble and matter-of-fact. There's nothing particularly special about them, except for the way she throws them. She's like one of those elite magicians who can make a playing card pierce the rind of a watermelon."[14]


Award Year Result
Costa Book Awards for Best Novel 2018 Won[9]
British Book Award for Book of the Year 2019 Won[2]
Man Booker Prize 2018 Longlisted[7]
Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 Longlisted[10]


In May 2019, BBC Three and Hulu announced that a TV series based on the novel was set to be produced. It premiered on 26 April 2020 on BBC Three and 27 April 2020 on the Australian streaming service Stan.[15] In Ireland, the series began airing on RTÉ One on 28 April 2020. The series stars Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne and Paul Mescal as Connell.[16] The show garnered critical acclaim and became BBC iPlayer's most-watched show of 2020 with over 62 million streams that year.[17]


Normal People has themes of love across class division. The main characters, Marianne and Connell, know each other from school but also because Connell's mother is a cleaner for Marianne's mother.[18] This establishes the class divide in their relationship.

Marianne and Connell have different views of their socioeconomic backgrounds.[19] Connell feels that he is trapped in a cycle where the money he spends on Marianne comes from his mother who gets it from Marianne's family whereas Marianne seems unbothered by spending money.[18] Connell lets the class divide come between them numerous times as he fears how he will be perceived. In school, Connell is popular and well liked by his classmates, unlike Marianne. This causes him to ask her to keep their relationship secret so that people do not find out his mum works for hers.[18]

When the pair both attend Trinity College, the class division becomes more apparent.[19] Marianne easily fits in with her upper-class classmates who come from similar backgrounds, some of whom look down on Connell for his lower socioeconomic status.[20] As their relationship continues, their class background drives them apart. Marianne and Connell start to find friends and partners in their respective social classes. When Marianne starts to date Jamie in their second year at university, Connell feels out of place in her world because of his lack of wealth.[20]

Socioeconomic class drives Marianne and Connell apart as they navigate early adulthood. Rooney uses these characters to explore how class divides keep people apart.


  1. ^ Hagan, Rachel (31 May 2019). "The BBC Unveils Plans For Adaptation Of Normal People By Sally Rooney". Elle. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Sally Rooney's Normal People wins big at British Book Awards". BBC News. 14 May 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Normal People". Faber & Faber. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  4. ^ Grady, Constance (3 September 2019). "The cult of Sally Rooney". Vox. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  5. ^ Rooney, Sally (2019), Normal people A Novel, Inc OverDrive, New York, ISBN 978-1-9848-4334-0, OCLC 1090829156, retrieved 7 May 2021{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ "Bookmark | Book Marks". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  7. ^ a b Flood, Alison (23 July 2018). "Man Booker prize 2018 longlist includes graphic novel for the first time". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "Love story Normal People is Waterstones' book of the year". BBC News. 29 November 2018.
  9. ^ a b "The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es named Costa Book of the Year 2018". Front Row. BBC Radio 4.
  10. ^ a b "Announcing the Women's Prize 2019 Longlist". Women's Prize for Fiction. 4 March 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  11. ^ "The 100 best books of the 21st century". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  12. ^ Sheahan, Fionnán (23 May 2020). "It's Marianne's fault we can't get a government to satisfy Normal People". Irish Independent. Retrieved 23 May 2020. The author of Normal People is a self-professed Marxist... her politics seeps through her writing. It's no accident the central protagonists of the book that has captured the nation's imagination are the rich girl living in the mansion and the poor boy whose mother works as her family's cleaner. The TV version glosses over the discussions around 'The Communist Manifesto' and the feminist bible 'The Golden Notebook'.
  13. ^ Rankin, Sally (25 November 2019). "Here are EW's top 10 fiction books of the decade". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  14. ^ Garner, Dwight (8 April 2019). "Sally Rooney's 'Normal People' Explores Intense Love Across Social Classes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  15. ^ Russo, Rebecca (1 April 2020). "An adaptation of Sally Rooney's novel 'Normal People' is heading to Stan". Time Out Melbourne. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  16. ^ "Hulu Orders New Series: "Normal People"". The Futon Critic. 30 May 2019.
  17. ^ "Normal People easily biggest series on BBC iPlayer with 62.7 million streams in 2020". Radio Times. 8 December 2020.
  18. ^ a b c Rooney, Sally (2018). Normal People. Canada: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780735276475.
  19. ^ a b Garner, Dwight (8 April 2019). "Sally Rooney's 'Normal People' Explores Intense Love Across Social Classes". New York Times.
  20. ^ a b Eppel, Alan (5 July 2022). "Normal People: the self-at-best and the self-at-worst". Journal of Psychiatry Reform. 8 (5).

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