Books Fiction Literary fiction review

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney – Review

Genre: Literary
Published: September 2021
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Pages: 337
My Rating:

“Maybe we’re just born to love and worry about the people we know, and to go on loving and worrying even when there are more important things we should be doing. And if that means the human species is going to die out, isn’t it a nice reason to die out? The nicest reason you can imagine?

Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You

I’m going to start off by saying that I am probably one of the few people who has not read any of Rooney’s other books so I went into this without any preconceived opinions or ideas and I was blown away.

The story is very much character driven and although initially it may seem somewhat ordinary, it is anything but. Each character is detailed and complex and I enjoyed how realistic their interactions were. If you like annotating then prepare yourself for lots and lots of notes. The topics and questions discussed in this book are often ones I have thought about before. They range from romantic relationships, friendship and sex to politics, religion and family dynamics.

Eileen and Alice have known each other since college, but they hardly see each other in person these days. Alice is a famous novelist, she is rich and successful, but struggles with her mental health. After her breakdown and admission to a psychiatric clinic she moves away for a bit and they don’t see each other that often anymore. Their communication is mostly email based. Eileen, is trying to get over a recent breakup and starts talking to a childhood friend, Simon. Old feelings start to resurface and they have to figure out how they fit into each other’s lives as adults.

“Presumably, remembered suffering never feels as bad as present suffering, even if it was really a lot worse – we can’t remember how much worse it was because remembering is weaker than experiencing.

Maybe that’s why middle-aged people always think their thoughts and feelings are more important than those of young people, because they can only weakly remember the feelings of their youth while allowing their present experiences to dominate their life outlook.”

Alice and Felix meet through a dating app, it’s not necessarily love at first site and all rosy. Alice had her own issues to work through and Felix is trying to get to know her and her quirks. She’s not necessarily the friendliest or warmest person to be around, but there is just something about her that intrigues him.

The chapters alternate between the two sets of relationships between the couples and emails between Eileen and Alice discussing different topics and catching up on life. The character development and growth were great and there is a lot of self-realization that takes places.

The book started off a bit slow for me, but it really does pick up as you get more invested in each of these characters and their lives. As a woman in her early thirties, I connected with the characters on a different level. Even though at first glance I may have very little in common with the characters, what I enjoyed was relating to them on a human level. We all want to be happy and loved, we all experience difficulties, sadness and self-doubt.

There were so many ups and downs and just like real life, you won’t know what to expect, so you’ll just want to continue reading to find out what happens next. It’s a book you will be thinking about long after you have read it.

Disclaimer: I was sent this free copy for review by Jonathan Ball Publishers. This does not influence my review or rating in any way. All views and opinions expressed are my own.

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