“And we hate people for making mistakes so much more than we love them for doing good that the easiest way to live is to do nothing, say nothing, and love no one.”
This book revolves around Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon – four people who are trying to make sense of their lives as adults. Alice is an author who meets Felix online and goes on a date with him. Eileen goes through a tough break up and goes back to flirting with her childhood friend, Simon. They’re four individuals trying to make sense of their love lives and their mental health.
While reading this book. I tweeted that Sally Rooney’s style of writing is basically “angst erotica”. I know Rooney has stans who think she can do no wrong but she has basically written the same book three times over, just with different characters. Rooney has a formula that works for her – she brings broken people who have bad mental health together to find love and have really great but slightly disturbing sex. Are these well written books? Yes. Are they the same books? Also yes.
Sometimes I feel like Rooney wants to write a purely romance novel but thinks her writing is too elevated for the genre. She forgoes so many things as she chases down romantic dynamics between characters that are not that interesting. She discards whole character development in pursuit of romantic love. Eileen had a very fraught and complicated relationship with her mother and sister which was never explored. Rooney doesn’t bother giving her characters any backstory to give them depth and make us invested in their story. Everything was barely scratched and kept surface and promptly moved on to the next.
Felix is an awful, self absorbed, emotionally abusive man who is normalized in this book and made to seem as a good match for Alice. He watches porn that shows women being degraded, is cruel to Alice for no reason and he propositions Simon while in a “situationship” with Alice, even though Simon had made it clear that he’s heterosexual.
And oh, 80% of this book is epistolary. Alice and Eileen keep up with each other’s lives via email correspondence. They write each other these ridiculous letters where they muse about everything from 18th century empires to the price of fame. Alice is an author in this book and I get a feeling that a lot of the things Rooney writes via Alice is pretty biographical. Just like Rooney, Alice has written two books with one about to be adapted for TV and she goes on and on about fame and writers wanting to be private. It got so boring reading these long, self indulgence, pseudo-deep musings.
If you’re planning to read this book because of Normal People, you’ll be disappointed because it’s more like her first book Conversation With Friends (the long pretentious conversations) than Normal People but with the angst of Normal People.
There are so many beautiful sentences and quotables that I would have put in this review but decided against it. This book is filled with so many beautiful sentences, Rooney has never been short of that but beautiful sentences does not a good book make. I found this book to be Rooney sounding off about her personal beliefs and thoughts through pretentious, navel gazing white characters that pretend to be deep. There is nothing about this book that is believable – not the characters, not the plot (which btw practically doesn’t exist), not the long email diatribes. How many millenials are emailing each other constantly about literature and philosophy and the fall of empires and the bronze age? Who are these people?!
I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads. I’m sure I’m going to be in the minority with this review since this book is well over 4 stars on Goodreads and Bookstagram is raving about it. I do not recommend this book. I did not enjoy it. I think it is perfectly okay to write about sex, friendships and relationships but if Rooney is constantly going to write the same book over and over again with practically similar characters with similar backgrounds, then this is where I step back from her. And of course, this book has no quotation marks.