Sally Rooney’s novel about Connell and Marianne has received quite mixed reviews (at least judging by what I have seen on Bookstagram). I first read this about a year ago and enjoyed it, but thought that I had missed most of the hype around it as I read it quite some time after it was released in paperback. However, thanks to the recent TV adaptation becoming a lockdown hit, the book has had a resurgence of interest.
The reason I like Normal People is because of its characters and the relationships between them. These are characters who are flawed, not perfect, and they feel real for that reason. I find them and their relationships very interesting to read and think about.
So, it is based of off enjoying the book in this way that I will be making my recommendations. If you find people and relationships interesting, then these books may be for you.
Conversations with Friends | Sally Rooney
Although I have not read this novel, I thought I would add it to this post as it is by the same author. Like Normal People, I have seen mixed reviews on Bookstagram for Conversations with Friends, but if you liked Normal People then maybe you have more chance of liking this one too.
Out of Love | Hazel Hayes
This is one of my most recent reads and I think I will be talking about it quite a bit from now on. I am going to be writing a full review soon, so that should be on my blog during the next couple of weeks and will also be on my Instagram (@georgiaellenreads).
Hayes has written this novel as a love story told in reverse. This means that the first chapter is about how the couple broke up and the last chapter is about how they met and began to develop their feelings. I felt that this was a very interesting concept and having seen Hayes talking about her book on her Instagram and YouTube channel, I was keen to read it.
I am so glad that I did read this novel because it covers so many topics besides relationships, such as friends, family, mental health, grief. Hayes writes so well and at times I was struck by the beauty of her writing – I have made note of so many pages and quotes that I loved.
I really recommend this book, especially if you are interested in relationships and people. I can definitely see myself returning to this book (partly because I want to try reading it in reverse) and I love the way it picks apart love and relationships.
You’re the One that I Want | Giovanna Fletcher
I talk about Fletcher’s novels quite a bit on this blog, but I really do love them. As I have said before, she often puts a twist on the typical romance narrative and in this case that means looking at what happens when you are in love with two people (although I have thoughts about this that I may share one day – I would happily discuss this novel).
The novel follows Maddie, Ben and Robert and the love triangle that develops between them. Usually, I find that I know what I want to happen in a novel and I tend to know what I think will actually happen. However, I had no idea when it came to this one. I struggled so much to figure out what I wanted to happen that I found myself in tears because I knew one way or another it was going to be painful for at least one person in the triangle.
Overall, this was an interesting romance read and the relationships between the three in the love triangle as they struggled with their romantic feelings and their friendship made me think. Therefore, I think this novel has those elements that are similar to Normal People, especially if the different types of love interest you, but it is also more of a romance novel in terms of genre than Normal People.
Love, Rosie / Where Rainbows End | Cecelia Ahern
I want to add here that this novel has two titles because the book was originally entitled Where Rainbows End, but the film adaptation was called Love, Rosie so the book was then released under that name to tie in with the film.
Also, the film adaptation of this is really good and I heartily recommend it. It stars Sam Claflin and Lily Collins and I think you should check it out.
Anyway, back to the book. This book is a classic case of right person, wrong time and will they/ won’t they. If that kind of thing really frustrates you, then this probably isn’t the one for you, especially as it would probably test the patience of most people. Towards the end of this novel I was thinking ‘ahhhhh they just keep missing each other and this is infuriating, they need to get themselves together’. However, the fact I wanted the two characters to be together shows how invested I was and how great Ahern’s characters are.
The novel follows Rosie and Alex from childhood and well into their adult lives. We see their friendship grow and change and follow not only the ups and downs of their relationship with each other, but of their lives in general. What is great about Normal People is that it feels like the characters could be real people, and I think that Ahern captures some of this here. Alex and Rosie have to make real choices in their lives, this is not a fairytale. However, it is a novel that had me shouting with the infuriation of it all and wishing for happiness for the characters.
If I remember correctly, the novel is an epistolary novel, so that may be worth mentioning for anyone who is not a fan of that form.
The Year I Met You | Cecelia Ahern
I recently mentioned this novel for people who liked The Flat Share, but I think it would also appeal to those who liked Normal People too.
This is another of Ahern’s novels that is focused on people, their relationships and the struggles in their lives (as opposed to her magical realism novels).
If I could ask people to give any novel a chance, I think it might be this one. I listened to it as an audiobook years ago, so hopefully I am remembering it correctly, but I loved that this story was not a classic romance and instead features two neighbours whose lives become entwined by their both being at home at the same time. This is a novel about friendship and I love that. Jasmine and Matt both go on personal journeys in ths novel, but they also find unexpected friendships that show that sometimes you need a bit of help in tough times and that’s okay.
I think that this one will appeal to those of you who enjoyed how the characters of Normal People had an impact on one another and helped in times of need.
The Great Gatsby | F. Scott Fitzgerald
I have heard Sally Rooney’s Normal People described as a modern classic and so I thought about some ‘classics’ that readers may also enjoy.
The Great Gatsby is quite a widely-read novel and I know that quite a few people study it at school or universtiy. I originally read it when I was 18 and have reread it once or twice since then, but it is a book that I really like and am happy to reread.
I think readers of Normal People will enjoy The Great Gatsby because both novels are character-focused and centre a complicated love story. Both novels also explore themes of class which is one of the really interesting elements of these two novels.
If you have not yet read The Great Gatsby but liked Normal People, maybe pick this one up and see what you think.
My Cousin Rachel | Daphne du Maurier
This choice is a bit different and may not appeal to lovers of Normal People, but I think it has brilliant characterisation and is one of my favourite ‘Classics’.
This novel was adapted into a film a couple of years ago, and it is a really great adaptation.
Like Normal People, I think the key aspects of My Cousin Rachel are the atmosphere and two central characters.
However, whilst the chemistry between Marianne and Connell is apparent, Rachel and Philip’s relationship is full of intrigue and kept me guessing as to what their feelings were and what was really going on. As the novel is told from the perspective of Philip, we never hear Rachel’s side, and so the narrative feels unreliable and keeps you guessing.
Overall, I think this is a fantastic novel and it has some of the key elements of Rooney’s novel, so could be an interesting one to try.
What did you think of Normal People (both book and TV)?
Have you read any of the books I have listed here? What did you think? Or maybe you have some different recommendations – let me know in the comments.