Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Fans of Sally Rooney’s books.
In a nutshell:
Eileen and Simon have known each other since they were little. Alice and Eileen have been friends since university. Eileen and Felix have just met. Events transpire.
“I think I have by now forgotten how to conduct social intercourse. I dread to imagine what kind of faces I was making, in my efforts to seem like the kind of person who regularly interacts with others.”
Why I chose it:
This was in a book subscription I got, and it’s the only hardback fiction on my to-be-read bookshelf, so thought I’d finally read it.
Sigh. I think this is a book I’m ‘supposed’ to like? Or maybe I’m too old for it? The main characters are all in their 30s, and I’m in my 40s, so perhaps this is just not for me? But I’ve read other fiction where the leads are all much younger than me and enjoyed those, so maybe it’s just this author’s style that doesn’t sit well with me. I enjoyed her first book “Conversations with Friends”, though “Normal People” was fine, and enjoyed this the least.
It isn’t that the story isn’t believable, or that there is anything inherently wrong with it. It just isn’t very good. Or should I say, it isn’t constructed in a way that I found interesting. I finished it mostly because it was a pretty easy read (though my kingdom for a paragraph break or a set of quotation marks) and I’d already started it. I briefly saw one review that it was an attempt at a modern take on 18th century novels of letters, which, absolutely fine, but the emails that take up half the book are borderline absurd. Maybe that’s the point! But I can’t imagine anyone really writing to their friends in such a way. I mean, perhaps people do, but I think people text their thoughts? I don’t know, perhaps this was Rooney’s way of trying to knock texting, or make a social commentary on how we choose to interact with those who don’t live near us. If so, cool. But it still didn’t work for me.
As for the characters, I guess I cared about them? Again, I don’t know. I suppose I should have seen Eileen’s personality early on, but the Eileen in the second half of the book could have been a complete different character from the Eileen in the first. Also I suppose the focus was on the women, but giving a little bit of background to the men frustrated me because either we’re going to get to know them or we aren’t. Going halfway there didn’t work for me.
I’d imagine being a lauded author with one’s second book even better received than the first can create a lot of pressure for the third, and I hope that this is the book Rooney wanted to write regardless of how it might be received. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy it. Just not me.
Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it: