Are we normal peple?
Sally Rooney, the 27- year-old Irish author, received much attention when Normal People was longlisted for Man Booker Prize in 2018 and subsequently won a few other awards in 2019. Rooney returned to the spotlight in April this year. When we were all stuck at home, Normal People was made into a 12-part series by BBC3 and Hulu, and premiered in Canada through CBC Gem.
Normal People gained not only critical but also commercial success. Rooney was regarded as “Salinger for the Snapchat generation,” and the book was raved as “a future classic” by some credible review sources. But if you look at Goodreads, the book has mixed reviews, ranging from 1 star to 5 stars.
Apparently reverse psychology works … the polarized review ratings triggered my curiosity, and I started reading the book. After I read the book, I finally understand the reviewers’ opinions better. I can see why some criticized the unconventional editing of the book – how many adverbs were used in the book?! (Not that those editing rules are important to me.) I also understand why others thought some critical background information wasn’t explained enough – what did Carricklea and the supporting characters look like? Why did Connell feel so insecure even he had such a loving mother?
But perhaps what I agree the most is the on-and-off relationship between Connell and Marianne was upsetting at times. Therefore, I can’t agree how a credible review source described the book: an exploration of “intense love across social classes.” I don’t think their young love was intense – how could it be on and off if it was intense? It wasn’t even so much a love story to me, though you probably would argue with that.
The book reminds me of Leaving Las Vegas, an old movie based on John O’Brien’s book with the same title. The film won Nicolas Cage the best actor. It was about two desperate people, an alcoholic screenwriter and a prostitute. They met and consoled each other with sex. It was a love story to me when I watched it over 20 years ago, but now, my definition of Love has changed, and I no longer think that was a love story. RogerEbert.com says: It was about addiction’s real pain and the two desperate souls using love as “last resort” for their pain. I think that’s very precise.
For the last few months, many people, even the most avid readers, have been having trouble picking up a book and getting through more than a few pages before their minds start to wander. My colleague Kasey wrote about this recently and I can certainly relate.
One way that I have been coping with the anxiety of these uncertain times, besides my weekend stress baking, is reading more romance novels. Romance is often considered an escape. It tends to be about regular people living their lives, and you know there will be a happy ending, whether it’s happily ever after or happy for now. There’s something comforting about that, and even the predictability of the story lines can be reassuring – you know what’s likely to happen but you get invested in the characters and you continue the story to its satisfying conclusion. Continue reading
It’s February, Black Heritage Month. The book that I want to share with you today is not directly related to the black heritage, but it’s relevant – I want to explore a stigma that we hope to break down in this society .
In my role as the Literacy and Readers Advisory Librarian, I have been trying to keep up with our Canadian literature, but sometimes I regrettably missed some really good titles. When I found Stranger by David Bergen, the 2005 Giller winner with many other subsequent awards, I was astonished by the profundity that his clean, short prose had offered.
The story started with a passionate love story between Dr. Eric Mann and Iso, the “keeper” of the same fertility clinic that the doctor worked for in Guatemala, with Iso thinking that Eric and his wife had been living separate lives. But one day, Eric’s wife, Susan, suddenly appeared at the clinic to take the fertility treatment. While Eric almost completely vanished from Iso during Susan’s presence, he continued to promise that he didn’t want Susan in town. When Susan left, Eric resumed his ritual with Iso, taking her on trips in his motorcycle, making love with her, enjoying the freedom without any need for responsibilities. Until one day, he hit a little boy on a country road, and at the same time, Iso found out she had had a baby growing inside her; you would think now there should be some consequence imposed on the doctor, but insanely, not quite …
I don’t want to spoil the rest of the intricate plot. But I suspect, at this point, part of the world might be questioning why Iso is so naïve, then the conversation might be steered into a very subtle and grey territory and put women in such situations at disadvantage.