October 10

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

In her first two novels, Conversations with Friends and Normal People, 30-year-old Irish writer, Sally Rooney launched into the serious book world like the Michael Jordan launched into the NBA.  Her books gave us an instant glimpse into the minds and lives of her generation and the world couldn’t get enough of it. And no, I’m not just referring to Connell’s gold chain.

Rooney’s latest novel tells the story of four twenty-something characters making their way through relationships and life. There is Alice, her best friend Eileen, Eileen’s childhood friend Simon and finally Felix, who Alice met on tinder.  The story moves between ponderous emails exchanged between Alice and Eileen and then their separate lives and relationship struggles.  Simon is in love with Eileen, who is worried that a romantic relationship will destroy their lifelong friendship and Alice falls for Felix, who helps her recover from a mental breakdown and balance the anxieties of her life as a successful and high-profile novelist.

I am not going to lie; these guys are a pretty earnest, high-falutin bunch. They are about as far from the cast of Friends as you can get.  Instead of sitting around laughing about Chandler’s imaginary childhood friends, Alice, Eileen and Simon agonise over everything from religion, capitalism, right-wing politics, social anxieties and sexuality.  Thankfully, Felix is a little more practical and, when the four of them come together towards the end of the book, he helps lighten the mood and move old tensions along.

But this book is far more than just the story of four people and Rooney is far more talented than I have made out. Her writing switches between formal and fresh with different perspectives in every chapter. Her characters are as imperfect as their arguments and that in itself, is the crux of the book.  To me, this book is about a generation and their worries and the timeless search for meaning and purpose.

And that’s just my 2 cents worth.