A literary hat-trick: Fans of Sally Rooney will be satisfied by her third outing, released next week
For fans of Sally Rooney, the wait is over: her third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You is finally hitting bookshelves next week.
It’s been a longer wait than usual. Following her 2017 debut, Conversations with Friends, her sophomore attempt, Normal People was released the following year, but that was three years ago. Since then, Rooney has found even more fans, thanks to 2020’s BBC adaptation of Normal People. The 12-part series, starring Daisy Edgar Jones and Paul Mescal, was the platform’s most-streamed series of the year, and was binged by over 62 million viewers. But how to follow two critically acclaimed novels that were met with such media fanfare?
The answer is, head on. Beautiful World, Where Are You is an affectionate portrayal of love and friendship that sees Rooney dive deeper than ever before.
It focuses on dealing with sudden fame and the pressures of being a writer through the interwoven lives of two couples in Ireland. The novel begins with a Tinder date between Alice, a novelist, and Felix, a working-class warehouse employee, at a hotel bar. The date isn’t remarkable, but in true Sally Rooney style, the pair end up in Rome together and a romance begins. All the while, Alice’s friend Eileen, an editorial assistant at a literary magazine, is getting over a break-up and pursues an on-and-off fling with a childhood friend, Simon.
It’s clear that the author has made no conscious effort to distinguish herself from the protagonist. The narrative is, in part, autobiographical – Alice is a successful novelist suffering from depression who has written two critically acclaimed novels and is struggling to write the third. Across intermittent chapters, she writes to Eileen via email. While the lengthy emails appear strange and old-fashioned at first, it’s where they discuss complex ideas from sexuality to climate change and identity, all the while giving the reader an insightful view into how Rooney responded to the realities of her own literary success.
Much like Normal People, what’s captivating about Beautiful World, Where Are You is how Rooney successfully writes about the mundanity of the everyday. The characters are ordinary and not particularly likeable, the plot doesn’t lead up to any big event, there is no climax and the romance is not glamorised. And yet, following four characters on their journey of self discovery is entertaining, even with Rooney’s deliberate avoidance of punctuation – a personal pet peeve.
Beautiful World, Where Are You will be released by Faber on 7 September (£16.99)
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