Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 29 May 2020

5 books to read if you loved Sally Rooney's 'Normal People'

If you're looking for a love story to rival Connell and Marianne's, try these novels

If you loved Sally Rooney's 'Normal People', try these books next. Supplied 
If you loved Sally Rooney's 'Normal People', try these books next. Supplied 

Sally Rooney’s Normal People has been a cult favourite since it was published in 2018. It’s a painful and raw story about young love and the transition into adulthood that will strike a chord with anyone who reads it. And, thanks to a BBC and Hulu adaptation (sadly not yet available in the UAE), Connell and Marianne’s love story has enjoyed a new wave of fans around the world.

The book has shot back up to the top of charts, and it has left a host of bereft readers in its wake, desperately searching for something to fill the Normal People-shaped hole finishing the book and series has left in their lives.

Here are five books that will strike a chord with Normal People fans …

‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney

The next natural step is to look to Rooney’s other works. Sadly, the young Irish author doesn’t have a huge back catalogue for her fans to devour, but Normal People was not her first book. Her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, has the same simple yet profound writing style that got so many people hooked on Normal People, and the same deep insight into the complex relationships between characters. Although, unlike the raw love story of Connell and Marianne, Conversations with Friends delves into the dynamic between four people: college students Frances and Bobby, and married couple Melissa and Nick. They are not quite as likeable and the story is slightly harder to swallow, but for fans of Rooney, it’s a must-read.

‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami

Much like Normal People, Norwegian Wood tackles the intensity of first love in an unpatronising way, capturing its complexity and its characters' innermost thoughts through simple yet profound prose. Written in 1987, the novel is told from the first-person perspective of Toru Watanabe, as he looks back at his time as a college student in Tokyo. Murakami also tackles the topic of loss expertly, and the love story will stay with you, and leave you feeling slightly empty, in a good way. It’s also said to be Harry Styles's favourite book. The singer told Rolling Stone: “It was the first book, maybe ever, where all I wanted to do all day was read this.”

‘One Day’ by David Nicholls

This heartfelt novel tells the story of star-crossed lovers Dexter and Emma and how their relationship changes and develops over the course of 20 years. Each year, Nicholls revisits the two on the same day, and notes the things that have changed in their lives, as well as the things that haven’t changed at all. Much like Connell and Marianne, Dexter and Emma leave readers feeling the same frustrations over words left unsaid. And, as with Normal People, the screen adaptation, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, was well received by fans of the book.

‘Ordinary People’ by Diana Evans

While this book has a similar name and shares some themes with Rooney’s Normal People, there are plenty of crucial differences. First, it follows the lives of two couples struggling through parenting, careers and grief, offering the familiarity of ordinary people living ordinary lives, dealing with feelings of discontentment in their relationships. Set in London, it will feel like home for lovers of the city, and leave readers feeling slightly uncomfortable with the parallels they can draw with their own lives.

‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah is a coming-of-age story that follows the lives of two young Nigerians as they depart for a new life in west and become separated, forced to spend years apart. The love story does not offer the same intense romance as Normal People, but its exploration of identity and societal issues offers similar themes, and Chimamanda’s observations throughout the book hit you with the same force as Rooney’s.

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Updated: May 6, 2020 04:04 PM

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