Reading dates: 20 – 27 October 2019
Neil read this book first (he is good at being with the zeitgeist) and made me promise I would read it too, even though I wanted to carry on with Ferrante straight away. He wanted talk about it, which is fair enough. The mastery of Ferrante was not kind on Sally Rooney’s book, which is an enjoyable read, but nothing spectacular. Too middle of the road in all aspects. While I don’t want to place unnecessary demands on the novels I read (there is a lot of beauty in routine, repetition and the mundane), Normal People left too much unattended. Of course, this is exactly what happens in normal life: things are not resolved, the potential for tragedy does not end in tragedy, people are not superheroes, they are just humans. But there was nothing here, apart from the passing of time, that was literary, other than it was written in moderate prose. Maybe I do demand some things of my novels… Ferrante had Naples and a little tinge of the supernatural that made it extraordinary. Normal People has a few too many missed opportunities: the mental health, the repeated patterns, the good and bad sex, the family violence, the alienation, the tall poppies, the class awareness … none of which are tenderly cared for. It could be a fabulous book, but this is not it.