rereview: Beautiful World Where Are You? by Sally Rooney
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Overview: Alice wrote two popular novels, became a literary super star, and had a mental breakdown. Now she's gone to a coastal Irish town to get away from the pressures of Dublin and her life there. She's left behind her friends Eileen and Simon in Dublin. Eileen is working at a literary magazine, unhappy, and pining for her childhood best friend who is many years her senior. Simon, that childhood best friend, is working in politics and struggling to settle down and meet societal expectations. Once in the new town, Alice gets on Tinder and clicks with the first guy she goes on a date with. Felix works in a warehouse and is lost in what he wants for his life, but he's intrigued by Alice. While separated by distance, the two couple's stories are kept connected via email as Eileen and Alice look to maintain their college friendship. Overall: 3.5
Characters: 4 Rooney writes character studies more than novels, so rightfully, the best part of the book is the characters. We spend plenty of time getting to know them, and they all have fascinating idiosyncrasies to mine through. Still, of all of Rooney's books, these are her most distant characters. This might have to do with them being in their late twenties/early thirties, less vibrantly alive and chaotic and bold as her university aged characters. It feels like there's always a film between this cast and the reader, and while we learn more about them with time and come to care about them, it's hard to feel like you've fully understood them over the course of the novel. She does paint a fascinating portrait of what it means to still be figuring out your life with slightly more tools in your toolbox.
Plot: 3 I mean... it's Sally Rooney. If you want a real plot, why are you even entertaining reading this book? Again, Beautiful World is much more abstract than her previous novels that meander but ultimately do have a structural backbone. All of the characters here do evolve and grow, but there's really no path that they take. Mostly, it's quiet day to day evolution and repeating the same steps in slightly different ways. It's just people being people, and if you find that interesting and compelling, this is a book you'll enjoy. I am one of those readers. Just show me people learning how to be people and how relate to other people better, and I'll be satisfied. If that's not you, you'll probably find this incredibly laborious. Even if you're intrigued by Rooney and the hype, try either of her other books instead.
Writing: 4 Again, I feel like Rooney's writing wasn't as profound and interesting in this book as her previous, unfortunately. I did enjoy the book (and actually finished it) this time, which is a huge difference from my original review. I've realized I'm in a much better spot in my life to enjoy her writing style. It can be tedious at times with her quotation mark free, whole page paragraph proclivity. You have to want to read the book to get through it. It's almost like wading through the forest. You have to pay lots of attention because the joy of Rooney's writing and craft is on the sentence level. The jokes and quirks and beautiful, blunt lines are wound within the thick prose that are easy to miss if your mind wanders. It's a book I can't read in public because there's no way to effectively skim her work, and you can't be distracted. For where I'm at now, trying to be really intentional and present, this was really good for me, but I can see how it wouldn't be a fit for others.
As a disclaimer, I've changed my stance since I originally reviewed Rooney's books (more on that soon). I don't hate Normal People anymore. I actually kinda love it.
original review: Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney Book Review
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