Sally Rooney has taken the literary world by storm. At just 27 years old, her novels have received glowing reviews with her second, Normal People, being shortlisted for the ManBooker prize, winning the Costa Novel Award (the second youngest winner ever) and scooping Waterstones Book of The Year Award. Hailed as the ‘Salinger for the Snapchat generation’, the young Irish author also splits opinion among the bookstagram community. Some adore her writing, finding her style engrossing and unputdownable whereas others feel like they don’t get the hype. I have to admit; I was between both camps. Now that I’ve read Conversations With Friends, Normal People and Mr Salary – I wanted to give my take on Sally Rooney and why her writing leaves me feeling confused.
My first of Rooney’s work was Normal People. I read this as part of my book clubs selection for February, and I had SO many feelings. You can read my full review of Normal People here as I had to document all the thoughts I had towards this incredibly emotional complex book. When I closed Conversations With Friends, I felt the same way I did with Normal People – conflicted. Did I love the book? No. Did I find the characters likeable? No. But did I hate it? No. I couldn’t understand how a book that on the surface, didn’t tick any of the boxes of what I love, could leave my mind mulling it over for as long as I did. I felt the same way about Normal People. I didn’t love nor hate the book; in fact, I found that one quite boring but when I closed the book over, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It seems that many people who have read Rooney’s books feel this way and I am no exception.
One huge plus for me is the way Sally nails the current landscape of some millennial relationships. Online dating is the new norm, and despite their being feelings between some people, there is much less labelling now than there ever has been. It is drastically different from the ‘courting’ that took place back when my parents were younger. Relationships look, and occur, massively different to how they once did and I feel like Rooney executes this in her books extremely well. I think we all know someone who has been involved in a ‘will they won’t they’ scenario. I think the relationship side of her novels are sometimes unhealthy but I do enjoy reading the complexity of them.
As much as I have my frustrations with her work, the main problem is I personally find her writing pretentious. Some of the things she has written about, particularly in Conversations With Friends, I’ve found made me roll my eyes. She has a great skill that’s for sure but, I think some of the narratives will end up going over some readers heads, including my own. I don’t feel there is a need to add certain conversation elements that she does into her novels for any other reason but to flaunt how clever she is.
Above everything, my favourite thing about Rooney’s novels is that they address some pretty sensitive topics such as suicide, depression, sexual assault, self-harm, classism and domestic abuse. The books do not revolve around these subjects however they’re moving, well thought out and executed delicately. I think tackling these topics in today’s climate is extremely important, but they have to be done in the right way, and she approaches these topics in the right direction. I found reading Normal People boring at the time but a thoughtful book that got me thinking of how I was in my early twenties and just how eerie close I could compare myself to Marianne. It evoked an emotional comparison, that I’d never had happen before. It touches on my previous point that she does indeed get you thinking.
There is no doubt in my mind that Sally Rooney is an exceptional writer. Her books might not include a massive plot, but the current landscape of millennial life does get the cogs in your mind going. She won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – for a while I wondered if she was even mine – but after reading Conversations With Friends, it has cemented to me that she is in fact, an author to watch. I may not love every element of her books but, if she can have me finishing the last page and leave me pondering, then it is a sign to me that she is a great author.
Have you read anything by Sally Rooney? She is indeed a bit like marmite, and I’d love to know your thoughts! You can comment below or tweet/IG me at @whatamydid. Thanks for reading as always.2