A Guide to Sally Rooney

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Described as the ‘voice of her generation’ Sally Rooney’s books have taken the literary world by storm. Rooney’s debut novel Conversations With Friends, released in 2017, received many great reviews, solidifying her place within the literary fiction world.

Her debut novel was shortly followed by the release of Normal People, which quickly became one of the most beloved books of our generation, branded a modern classic by many. With three novels and multiple short stories published, Rooney can be seen as an intimidating author, and many don’t know where to start reading her works. This guide will help you choose exactly where to start!

Conversations With Friends Cover

Conversations With Friends

My personal favourite Rooney novel, Conversations With Friends, follows two young college students as they begin a strange and moving relationship with a married couple. Set in Dublin, the book revolves around Francis, an aspiring author and her close and complicated relationship with her best friend, Bobbi. The pair meet a married couple, Nick and Melissa, at a spoken word poetry performance and slowly become intertwined in a way no one quite expected. Drawing on themes of relationships, youth and intimacy, this novel is one of the most beautifully complicated of its time. An adaptation of the novel starring Joe Alwyn is expected to hit our screens in 2022.

My favourite part: The shockingly honest exploration of age and relationships which every 20-something uni student can relate to.

Read this first if: you like reading authors works from the start.

Personal favourite quote: “It comforted me to know that my friendship with Bobbi wasn’t confined to memory alone, and that textual evidence of her fondness for me would survive her actual fondness if necessary”.

Normal People Cover

Normal People

With over a million copies sold, Normal People is arguably one of the most popular books of our generation. The novel follows teens, Marianne and Connell, and their complicated relationship as they finish secondary school and leave home to study at Trinity College Dublin. This emotional and heart-wrenching story was adapted by Hulu and the BBC into a twelve-part television series in 2020, truly bringing the story to the nation’s heart. Absolutely heartbreaking and irrevocably honest, Normal People is a must-read novel.

My favourite part: Relieving the confusion and of heartbreak in high school and the solidarity of new confusing feelings of love and social class in university

Read this first if: You want to start where the hype is.

My favourite quote: “I’m not a religious person, Marianne, but sometimes I think God make you for me”.

Beautiful World Where Are You cover

Beautiful World, Where are You

Released in 2021, Rooney’s latest work strays away from her younger characters and ventures into the experiences of 25-30-year-olds, navigating love, sex and work. Following best friends, Alice and Eileen, and their relationships with Felix and Simon throughout their journeys to understand the world around them. Incorporating emails between the young women, the novel shows a grittier side to finding your place in society, set across Ireland and reaching as far as Rome. This work is perfect for those searching for where they truly belong in this beautiful world.

My favourite part: The raw representation of long-distance friendships and relationships that you can never seem to quite understand.

Read this first if: You relate to trying to find your place in the world.

My favourite quote: “So of course in the midst of everything, the state of the world being what it is, humanity on the cusp of extinction, here I am writing another email about sex and friendship. What else is there to live for? Love, Alice”.

The Short Stories

Sally Rooney is not just a novelist, she has also written multiple short stories, which showcase her work in smaller, bite-sized pieces. My personal favourite Rooney work is her short story Mr Salary.

Mr Salary cover

Mr Salary

At only 26 pages long, this story is quick and easy to read, but stunningly honest and tells a love story for the ages. This story follows Sukie and her relationship with Nathan, who she becomes increasingly close to when she moves in with him after leaving her family home. Showcasing communication and convoluted relationships is Rooney’s signature story style, and is no better represented than in this story.

Read this first if: You want a taste of Rooney’s writing style

Rooney has multiple further works, short stories and poems, released in many different literary publications, available for keen readers, looking for more works to consume. These four works are the perfect introduction to our generations most talked about author and should be consumed carefully, as addictive once you get into them. Happy Reading!

Featured Image Credit: Patrick Bolger/The Guardian

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