Top of the heap # 4
Normally this tranche of the blog covers crime, mystery, thrillers and other exciting books. But these are not normal times.
Normally, I would detail the pleasures of discovering a novel, it would be from a stray reference on the few passionate blogs that cover books in my area of preference or it would be from those well read people I stalk on goodreads. But these are abnormal times and I somehow got sucked into reading an acclaimed novel, not that it has not happened before, but never did I believe in the acclaim simply without question and completely. I would also like to point out that picking this book also stems from a small voice in my brain which keeps going on about how I should widen my reading choices which would hopefully expand my mind. I usually sneer at this part of the brain, make fun of it so much that it is ashamed to make its presence felt, but there are times when I am beyond myself and give in to such thoughts,and these are not normal times.
Normally, I would take time reading novels, since they are of the crime, mystery and thriller genre where the structure and mechanics are as important or even more important than the turn of phrase or “feelings”, I would read a little and spend some time thinking about the author’s choices and setting, almost trying to retrace a blueprint. I know, it is the only true intellectual activity I engage in, I see if there are tricks that the author is playing or is he against a deadline to deliver yet another novel, it is because I am trained to look at structures that Sally Rooney’s work seems like a heap of fallen bricks.I finished it in a week.
I realize this is my inability to appreciate the novel. It is plainly unfair to criticise a novel for what it is not, but I am really trying to record my experience and provide some context to my reading mind.
Normal People follows the of the ON-AGAIN OFF-AGAIN relationship of Marianne and Connell from high school, she is the smarter and unpopular one and he is the smart and popular guy, there is some class difference in the background, his mother works as helper in her house, only for them to make some disparaging comments on how capitalism is the cause for all the ills of the world. Sigh.
Maybe they will join a revolution, I imagine,and bring in conscious capitalism or maybe they will reinvent marxism for the millennials. Sorry but nothing of that sort happens, the characters are not so much in control of their lives to take control of word narratives. Maybe if Connell could have gone to study law and not followed Marianne to Trinity college, he would have had a shot at changing world narratives.
Hey wait, maybe the novel is not interested in that, the world events are a background just like how social status is a background, not as much as an obstacle, chill, nothing really happens in this book. Ultimately the biggest reveal comes in the form of a fine arts course in New york, those are the stakes in Normal People.
Page after page, I flip in the hope that maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel, light which informs these characters that most of what happens to them is a result of what they want to do and not the happenings of whole wide world, maybe I thought even Marx would make a guest appearance and tell the characters to get a life, but all I got was feelings.
This book even got long listed for the Booker Prize. Wait, that’s not a comment on the literary novel or the Booker Prize itself, it is just an inference that the “feelings” novel is not for me. I am not evolved for it. Or maybe it was just a bad pick, I am not really shutting out that small voice in my head, because an analytical mind is always open to possibilities.
I know there is a book out there that meets the stories glories of such fiction and helps me expand my mind, but Normal People isn’t that.
Normal People cover image from here