Category Archives: books

Book review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Book: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Genre: Fiction, psychological fiction
Rating: 5/5 
Published: 2018

Sally Rooney has a way with her straight-to-the-point style of words captivated by steadiness, but it still does not fail to draw you in. The book Normal People concentrates on the lives of two ordinary individuals (Connell and Marianne) who are discovering love, lust, loneliness, depression, trauma and overall, their path in transitioning into adulthood. Something we all can relate to. 

The story follows Connell and Marianne from their school days where they begin a secret affair. At school they pretend to not know of each other. Connell is popular at school, well liked, and an athlete who plays for the soccer team but as for Marianne she’s quiet, private, lonely, vulnerable and proud. Connell’s mother works as a cleaner at Marianne’s house. The two’s connection starts when Connell comes to pick his mother up. Their social and socio-economic backgrounds could not be further apart, but that does not stop the sparks happening between them. Events of betrayal happen and the two drift apart only to be brought back together at Trinity College in Dublin, where they both attend.

This is a story about two characters who are desperately in love and find their way back to each other, each time they drift apart. This is a story that goes well beyond lust and sexual awakening, two normal people who have a sense of innocence to them. Something we rarely see nowadays, where there are no drugs involved nor are, they criminals, which makes this book ever more interesting.

Sally Rooney, a young Irish author born in 1991. Her previous work consists of Conversation with Friendswhich was published in 2017, only a year before her book Normal People, which also gave a name for her. The book, Normal People, has won the 2018 Costa Novel Award, the Novel of the Year Award at the Irish Book Awards, and was Waterstones Fiction Book of the Year 2018. The book has also been adapted into a series on Hulu. 

Rooney’s writing style is simple but sharp like a knife, which leaves words bleeding inside of your head for days. While reading this novel myself I felt that I reached a level of epiphany in my young adult life, things became clearer almost. How miscommunication and misunderstandings can lead to failure in relationships and how subtle these miscommunications can be at times.

The book makes you not only think but also feel the realities of ordinary people. Rooney’s coming of age tale tackles why and how people interact in a unique way. Connell wonders, “Is the world such an evil place, that love should be indistinguishable from the basest and most abusive forms of violence?” Connell grows and slowly adjusts to the world around him, whereas Marianne relapses, often finding herself in abusive relationships, yet they still seem to be rooted to each other even though they drift apart. It’s almost frustrating that Rooney keeps these two characters apart. 

Rooney is a young and original writer, and she is only just getting started.

Book review: The Runaway by Martina Cole

Book: The Runaway
Author: Martina Cole
Genre: Fiction, crime, thriller
Rating: 4/5

Published: 1997

The Runaway is a novel by The Sunday Times number one bestselling author Martina Cole. If you have read any of Cole’s crime novels, then you are well aware it is not suitable for the faint-hearted, as it can be hard to stomach the brutality of it. A book which is gritty and graphic, it portrays the merciless gangs and harsh lives of Londoners between the years 1960 to 1980, in its rawest form. Where the characters such as Eamonn Docherty play god and decides who should live or die, making a name for himself an heartless villain in London and New York. 

The story follows Cathy Connor and Eamonn Docherty living together as children: Cathy’s mother, Madge, is a prostitute and her husband Eamonn’s father, Eamonn senior lives off his wife’s wages. They all live in poverty in the slums of the East End of London, but this does not stop the two kids from dreaming about a better life with each other. These dreams however, are shattered following a series of events which push Eamonn to move to New York leaving Cathy behind and fighting for herself. After ending up in care, Cathy has no choice but to become a runaway and finds herself at the doors of Soho, where she makes herself a friend, a transvestite by the name Desrae. However, It’s only a matter of time before, the two sweet childhood lovers’ paths crosses again. This time Cathy is not a weak little girl anymore, she’s grown, strong, beautiful and clever.

If you have read Cole’s other books, you will realise that the drill is pretty much similar in terms of the characters and theme of the plot; men who are hungry for power, money and women who are either used and abused or break the traditional norms of the ideology that women are inferior, are powerful in their own way. Don’t let the thickness of the book intimidate you, because it’s a real page turner. It’s highly gripping, and throws you into a rollercoaster of emotions with love, betrayal, loss and gang violence. The brutality of the book can be frightening, and the love between Cathy and Eamonn shows us how deep love can run even if you spend years apart, and even when they are not deserving of that love. With gang violence follows death and as Cole accurately describes in the book, “no matter what happened to you personally, life went on for everyone.”

A fiction book which allows you to reflect on your own life nonetheless, with quotes such as, “Oscar Wilde said that youth was wasted on the young, and he was right. When you were young you wasted not only your own life, but usually someone else’s as well.” Although, as amazing the book may be, I can’t ignore the book’s repetitiveness. A well written, engaging story, yet, a story filled with prostitutes, women who are used, abused and who believe they need a powerful, handsome, rich man to survive the harsh world of their reality. If you are getting tired of this theme, then I must say that this book is not for you.  However, if it’s your first time reading from this author, it will not disappoint. 

You can buy your own copy from Amazon here.

Book review: The queen’s gambit by Walter Tevis

Book: The Queen's Gambit
Author: Walter Tevis
Genre: Fiction, psychological thriller
Rating: 5/5 
Published: 1983

From the moment I picked up Walter Tevis’ amazing novel The Queen’s Gambit, I struggled to put it back down, and ended up finishing the book in just two days, 243 pages of it. The Queen’s Gambit is a novel first published in 1983 following the life of a chess prodigy. As boring as that may sound, the words that tell the story between the front and back cover begs to differ. The novel takes place in 1950 where women are still considered to be intellectually inferior to men. Elizabeth Harmon, is both young and also female, challenging the traditional norms of society. We are first introduced to Beth at the age of eight as an orphan with the first sentence, “Beth learned of her mother’s death from a woman with a clipboard.”

But for a moment, let’s put chess aside, and look at the story through Beth’s eyes, an eight-year-old orphan girl from Kentucky. The chaotic battlefield here, in this story is her mind. Ending up in an orphanage at the age of eight, Beth finds two ways to escape her reality; first chess which is taught to her by a creepy janitor in a dark basement, and second, taking the little green pills given to her and also the other orphans, which helps keep the children tranquilized. It doesn’t take long before her genius mind is discovered while playing a game of chess. She wins her way up the rankings, earning money, beating grandmasters. Beth is smart, maybe even too smart for her own good. In a society where women are considered inferior, she doesn’t see gender, and is often frustrated about articles written about her, focusing more on her being a young woman rather than her successful chess wins. But all that aside something is missing in her life, which leaves her mind in a state of loneliness. Leading her to swallow more green pills and drink more alcohol.

There are many quotes in this book I enjoyed and choosing a favourite is difficult, however, if I was forced to choose it would be the quote where Beth said, “It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it; I can dominate it. And it’s predictable. So, if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame.”

To those who are thinking, “do I need to be a chess fan to read this book?” The answer is no. Although, the plot takes place with a girl rising up the ranks playing chess, it is also much more than that. It is also about loss, death, rejection, addiction, and even sexism. Ergo, if you believe you can relate to even one of those emotions listed, this book is for you. That’s not to say that chess is boring. It may be for some, however Tevis brings out the excitement and dramatics of chess into this book.

The book is engaging and easy to follow with the author’s straight to the point writing, “it was six days until Thursday.” It’s a book I read once and will happily go back and read again. I enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit to the point where I turned a blind eye to Beth’s gloomy future at the end of the novel. The little orphan grew up to outgrow the one thing that made her name. We may not be a prodigy but we can still understand and relate to Beth Harmon in more ways than one, which is the core of what makes this book engaging. 

You can buy your own copy on Amazon.