A Coming of Age Story for the Modern Woman: A Review of ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney

Normal People, the second novel by Irish author Sally Rooney, has become a global phenomenon. It tells the story of two young people, Connell and Marianne, navigating their way through a complex relationship over the course of their teenage and university years. The novel has received praise for its honest and nuanced portrayal of love, class, and power dynamics. In this review, I will explore the plot, analysis, and impact of Normal People on modern women.

Background on Author Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney was born in 1991 in County Mayo, Ireland. She studied English literature at Trinity College Dublin and published her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, in 2017. Her second novel, Normal People, was published in 2018. It was met with great critical acclaim and won numerous awards, including the Costa Novel Award and the Irish Book Award.

Overview of ‘Normal People’

Normal People tells the story of Connell and Marianne, two teenagers from different backgrounds who form an intense, complicated relationship. It follows their individual and shared journeys of self-discovery as they transition from high school to university and beyond. The novel is set against the backdrop of Ireland during the recession, and examines themes of class, power dynamics, and mental health.

Plot Synopsis

Connell and Marianne’s Backstories

Connell is from a working-class background in County Sligo, Ireland. His mother works as a cleaner for Marianne’s wealthy family and Connell is often embarrassed by this. Marianne is from a privileged background, but her family is emotionally distant and she is often ostracized for her aloofness.

Connell and Marianne’s Relationship

At school, Connell and Marianne form an intense but secret relationship. They are both outsiders and they are drawn together by their mutual understanding of each other. As they progress to university, they struggle to maintain their relationship due to their different social statuses.

Other Relationships

Connell’s relationship with his mother is strained due to his embarrassment of her job and his desire to distance himself from his working-class background. Marianne’s relationship with her family is difficult, as they are emotionally distant and she feels isolated from them.

Connell and Marianne’s Decision to Part Ways

At the end of the novel, Connell and Marianne decide to part ways. They both realize that they are no longer the same people they were when they first met, and that their relationship is not what it used to be.


Connell and Marianne’s Complex Relationship

Normal People examines the complexity of young love and its capacity for growth and change. Connell and Marianne’s relationship is portrayed as both passionate and turbulent, and their different social backgrounds contribute to the tension between them.

Themes of Class and Power Dynamics

The novel explores the power dynamics of class, and how it both shapes and impairs relationships. Connell’s working-class background often comes into conflict with Marianne’s privileged one, and this is a source of tension in both their individual and shared journeys.

Portrayal of Mental Illness

Mental illness is another major theme in Normal People. Marianne suffers from depression and anxiety, and the novel provides an honest and nuanced portrayal of her struggles. It also examines the impact that mental illness can have on relationships and self-discovery.

Depiction of Young Love

Normal People examines the complexities of young love and its capacity for growth and change. Connell and Marianne’s relationship is portrayed as passionate and turbulent, and their growth as individuals is reflected in their changing relationship.


Normal People is a coming of age story for the modern woman. It challenges traditional notions of love and class, and provides an honest and nuanced portrayal of mental illness, power dynamics, and young love. It has had a profound impact on modern women, who can relate to the complexities of Connell and Marianne’s relationship and find strength in the novel’s honest depiction of mental illness.


Rooney, S. (2018). Normal People. London: Faber & Faber.

Slater, J. (2019, April 17). Sally Rooney: the millennial novelist with a global following. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/17/sally-rooney-millennial-novelist-global-following-normal-people.

Other related queries

What’s the moral of Sally Rooney’s “Normal People”?

At the core of this charming story is the notion that love can lead to transformation for the better. Connell and Marianne are both impacted in a positive way by their relationship, and it’s uplifting to witness their personal growth.

How old should ya be to read Normal People?

Well, there are some pretty grown-up scenes in there, so it’s probably best if you’re at least 19 before ya give it a go.

Is Normal People by Sally Rooney an absolute must-read?

Oh my goodness, absolutely! Normal People is the kind of romantic story that will make you sigh dreamily and make you want to jump through the pages and into the world of Marianne and Connell. Sally Rooney’s writing is so beautiful and so captivating – you’d be hard-pressed to put it down!

Why is Normal People so totally amazing?

This book is all about mental health, and Sally Rooney totally nailed it in creating a mood of gentle sadness. It’s a beautiful exploration of loneliness, identity loss, and finding your place in the world. Plus, the connection between Marianne and Connell is so incredibly heartwarming!

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