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Normal People

How Sally Rooney’s novel became the literary phenomenon of the decade, Sian Cain January 8 2019 The Guardian

Book Success

Booksellers are keeping stashes behind counters, others are having to put signs in windows to say it’s in stock … What is it about the novel that has resonated with so many people?

“A good measure of a book’s success is: are booksellers tired of being asked if they have it in stock? In one south London bookshop, the owner has put a sign in the window advising that yes, they do have copies of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, the literary phenomenon of the year.
This week, Rooney, 27, became the youngest novelist ever to land the Costa awards’ best novel category. Normal People is now favourite to win the prize for overall book of the year at the end of the month. Her second novel has been a surprise – not for its quality, which was assured after her confident debut Conversations with Friends – but for the response to it. There hasn’t been a literary novel that has had such an impact on conversation beyond the usual huddles of luvvies since perhaps Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, or, before that, Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, or even before that, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.”

Through the WI Lens

Rooney’s novel has become a literary hit because it captures something of the zeitgeist (in spite of being set five or six years ago) for Millennials. That mood is described here as the sense of ‘collective precariousness’ experienced by young people, “often overeducated, neurotic, slightly too self-aware”. Much has been written about Millennials: their neuroses, their obsession with self image, their poor material prospects and their preference for experiences over ownership, to name a few. In terms of wellness, they represent something of a paradox. On the one hand they have been dubbed ‘the wellness generation’ because they eat healthier and exercise more than previous generations. At the same time, they are experiencing high levels of depression, an unprecedented struggle with identity and the relentless pressures of social media. No wonder Normal People is resonating so much.

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