Tag Archives: Stream of Consciousness

Normal People by Sally Rooney (Review by Varsha R. ’21)

Normal PeopleNormal People by Sally Rooney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TW for Normal People: Sexual assault and suicide

The first thing I noticed when I started Sally Rooney’s Normal People was that she does not use quotation marks in dialogue. What was initially jarring became understandable to me over the course of the novel. At the heart of Rooney’s writing is an innate desire to fully immerse the reader into the narrative; in real life, we don’t talk or perceive language with quotation marks, and her aversion towards such conventional punctuation made me feel as though I myself was a side character in the book, watching the story unfold with an outside, yet involved, perspective.

Rooney’s sentences are short, blunt, and zany. At first glance, her words leave almost no room for interpretation, but she also manages to craft an intense, emotionally draining and, at times, frustrating love story that leaves an impact. It’s perhaps for this reason that people either seem to adore Rooney’s writing or despise it. It takes a while to get used to, especially after reading the more standard works of basically any other established author.

Normal People takes a classic, time-and-time-again-told story of misunderstanding amid romance while weaving key threads of social class, mental turmoil, and simultaneous self-discovery and self-depression. It’s impossible not to sympathize with the lead characters, Marianne and Connell, as they make their individual footprints in their legacies while constantly surrounded by the other’s memory and presence.

They start a clandestine relationship with one another in their senior year of high school with the cliche trope of a popular soccer player and a quiet, misunderstood ugly duckling. What separates Normal People from any other coming-of-age romantic comedy is an unmistakable backdrop of social inequality, emotional uncertainty, and poignant thoughts of philosophy and self-questioning, which are furthered by a strong use of the third person.

Rooney has an irksome talent to keep the magnetically attached Marianne and Connell in her books apart at the most inopportune moments, a trope that gets exasperating after the first couple times. But as she puts it, “All these year they’ve been like two little plants sharing the same plot of soil, growing around one another, contorting to make room, taking certain unlikely positions.”

And of course, a key hallmark of Rooney’s books is a disappointing ending that almost came off as a final “screw you” to the reader after having been swept up in Marianne and Connell’s intertwining tale for so long. But it was impossible for me to stay annoyed for long after having reflected on the profound impact that this book had on me, my perception of myself, and my understanding of how I’m perceived in the world around me. —Review by Varsha R. ’21

For those who enjoyed Normal People, Varsha also suggests Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney and The Outline Trilogy: Outline, Transit and Kudos by Rachel Cusk.

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Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen (review by Anya W. ’20)

SkyscrapingSkyscraping by Cordelia Jensen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mira doesn’t know what she would call a major turning point in her life. Was it the walk when she decided that this year’s yearbook theme would be New York City? Was it the day she found her father in bed with his TA? Was it the day when she found out about her parent’s open marriage? Was it the day she found out that her family had no time left?

At some point though, Mira shut down, and she can’t-isn’t-won’t ever be the same again.

Jensen’s novel written in free prose is a heart wrenching expose on the beautiful, terrible mess we call family. She writes unflinchingly of parents’ mistakes and the intolerance of youth, and manages to still infuse it all with a sense of understanding, and of the importance of acceptance and compromise. I love how dynamic her main character is, and how Jensen still allows the side character be multifaceted, with their own emotions and goals. While some plot points may seem trite, they are at least comparatively minor. This is a good, solid read that won’t leave you feeling like you wasted your time. – Anya W. ’20

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Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (review by Elizabeth S. ’16)

Cat's EyeCat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cat’s Eye details the life of stream-of-consciousness narrator Elaine as she reflects as an aged artist on her years growing up in the time after World War II in Toronto. Elaine has recently returned to Toronto in order to manage a retrospective gallery of her own critically acclaimed work. She reconnects with specters from her past, like the phantom Cordelia who tormented her as a child, whom she now sees and hears everywhere she goes even though she is long gone. Atwood captures Elaine’s apathetic, passerby-like thoughts and describes her world in the most visceral way, making her writing a true joy to behold as it brings the story to life. Atwood also uses Elaine as a lens through which she can explore her own judgments and thoughts about growing up as a girl through elementary, middle, high school, and university, finding love, hate, strength, and weakness in all of these events that seem so cataclysmic when undergone for the first time. Cat’s Eye is a true masterpiece, recommended to anyone for a more adult spin on a coming of age story.

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Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson (review by Elisabeth S. ’16)

Autobiography of RedAutobiography of Red by Anne Carson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anne Carson’s compelling language makes this book a masterpiece in verse. Autobiography of Red is a coming-of-age story loosely based on the story of Herakles’ tenth labor (stealing the cattle of the monster Geryon). This version is set in the modern day–Geryon is still a red monster with wings, but he’s also a photographer with his own familial troubles and thirst for adventure. He meets Herakles, and they fall in love, but Herakles departs from his life shortly after, not to be seen again until years later when Geryon is taking a trip through South America. Carson’s use of unlikely yet apt description and Geryon’s singular, confused voice makes this book utterly unforgettable. His trials with an abusive brother, a feeble mother, and lost love make it surprisingly easily to empathize with the red monster. Overall, this book is recommended to all fans of poetry and mythology. – Elisabeth S. ’16

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I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (review by Elisabeth S. 17)

I Am the MessengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I Am the Messenger is an idiosyncratic, heartwarming novel that is, in most stores, marketed wrongly in the young adult section–this is a novel that should be read and cherished by adolescents and adults alike for its brilliance and quiet, universal lessons. Ed Kennedy is a young cabdriver with no real aspirations and a muted existence in his apartment with his loyal, omnivorous dog The Doorman and his few friends he plays cards with every now and then. After managing to stall a bank robbery by chance, he is sent the first card in the mail, an ace of diamonds, from an unknown benefactor. The card contains three addresses, three messages that he has to send. And thus, he becomes “the messenger,” and the reader is taken for a thrill ride through the Australian suburbs. Full of love, laughter, and ironic life lessons, I I Am the Messenger refuses to be put down after being picked up. Ed Kennedy’s wry voice serves as an excellently readable narrator for the story, and the reader also gets to see Ed develop as he experiences each message that he delivers in his own way. This book is highly recommended for readers of all genres and all ages teen and up. – Elisabeth S. ‘16

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