Irish writer Sally Rooney has won the top prize at the British book awards with her second novel Normal People. I’m particularly pleased because I’ve enjoyed it as much as her debut, Conversations With Friends. However, I have yet to pick up Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming.

Why do I mention these two titles in relation? The First Lady’s memoir picked up two British book awards for best non-fiction and audiobook of the year. UK sales for Becoming outperformed Normal People so greatly, it was anticipated to win the top award as well. Instead, the jury didn’t go on sales alone and awarded the book of the year title to Rooney’s work of literary fiction.

Normal People follows the relationship of Marianne and Connell from school to university. Their love is an on-off affair, with secrecy, abusive and self-destructive tendencies, power and control, but also loneliness and insecurity. It features sex scenes that are not very explicit, but nonetheless cut right to the core of what makes us nervous and uncomfortable in the presence of another, of whom we also think with kindness and longing.

Dominée LePen - Blog - Book Review - Sally Rooney - Normal People - Title
Normal People by Sally Rooney trumped Michelle Obama’s memoir to book of the year title at British book awards (image source).

I mean, when you look at the lives men are really living, it’s sad, Marianne says. They control the whole social system and this is the best they can come up with for themselves? They’re not even having fun.

Sally Rooney, Normal People

As someone who’s had my share of abusive relationships, I highly recommend Normal People. Not that I have anything against Michelle Obama. If you’re looking for a feel-good book, pick up Becoming instead. Sally Rooney’s character study is not a romance, but full of deep emotions and as exciting and unbearable as first love.


The book of the year award is well-deserved. 5 out of 5 stars of normalcy.

Sally Rooney: Normal People. Faber & Faber.

I did not receive a copy of this book for a review or mention.