There has not only been so much hype about this book, but a successful TV show (which I haven’t yet watched) as well. Once again, I was caught in the silly bind of asking myself do I read it and risk disappointment or not? Fortunately, I did read it and while the book wasn’t what I expected, it was a good read.
Basically, the story centres on two misfits (though the fact they both are isn’t immediately apparent) who, thrown together through life’s vagaries, nonetheless share little in common except they’re both smart and curious – mainly about each other, though they’d be the last to admit that. While Marianne is unpopular at school, Connell is the boy most dream of being or being able to call boyfriend, a situation that’s reversed once they get to university. Then, it’s the other’s turn to shine. The book follows the social, psychological and emotional intersections of these two characters through adolescence and early adulthood; the way in which they both depend upon and yet deny their need for each other. They’re like atoms, inexplicably drawn to each other then flung apart, mostly because, for all their intelligence, they don’t really understand themselves or their need of each other and are hopeless at communicating.
I found this quite frustrating in some ways – the fact they don’t learn from the pain they feel and cause and repeat mistakes that cause a series of emotional upheavals and damage to their souls. Are they “normal people” or is this a satiric commentary on their ability to function “normally’ (whatever that is) and embrace dysfunction instead? So, while I appreciated the rawness and realness of much of the dialogue and situations, I also found the naval-gazing a bit tedious and their white privilege a bit hard to stomach. But perhaps that was the point as well?
Overall, I am really glad I read it and get the fuss – the writing is really good – but I am not sure about recommending it – not without caveats.