Normal People is an interesting, thought-provoking novel that follows a young “couple” as they finish high school and maneuver into university life. At a mere glance, it may seem like a typical romance story between two people from different sides of the tracks, but to be honest, there is nothing really typical about this story.
Marianne and Connell come from very different backgrounds; Marianne is from a professional, well-to-do household, while Connell was raised by a single mother who cleans Marianne’s house. Marianne is somewhat of a loner – she isn’t close to her family and she doesn’t have any friends. Connell is a popular athlete who is never lacking in companionship. Despite their differences, Connell and Marianne make a connection, they just seem to click, but their relationship is not without its many flaws and obstacles.
I’m even hesitant to call what Marianne and Connell had a relationship. They spent time together, enjoyed each other’s company, were intimate, but it was all to be kept a secret from their classmates and families. He was the golden boy, she was the plain Jane. He was a person who was lauded, she was one who was mocked or ignored. Who would possibly understand the attraction between them? I hated that she accepted this arrangement, and I hated that Connell felt it was even necessary. I do understand the weight that peer pressure can put on teenagers, and that most wish that they could fit in and cause as few ripples as possible in the social pool, but the whole scenario was quite heartbreaking.
The tables turned when they began university. He was the one who found it difficult to make acquaintances, she was the one with all of the social graces. Their whole relationship seemed to be a dance of sorts. Their relationship was never truly set in stone or official, but they always seemed to find their way back to each other. With each phase of their lives they were always circling each other, revolving back in the other’s midst.
Normal People was an intriguing story. It was a love story, but it wasn’t a romance. It wasn’t about any specific event, it was about the relationship between Marianne and Connell over the course of a few years and how they always ended up coming back together. It was both simplistic and profound in expressing how the people in our lives affect the paths that we take. It was about two young people who longed to be normal, but in all honesty, who is normal?