Normal People has been all the rage when it first released with people binging it up and down. Since the book it’s based on is also a bestseller, I can only say I missed out on that hype as well. Late to the party, as I tend to be quite a lot sometimes, I really wanted to catch up on the phenomenon and indulged in both recently. So, what else would be the perfect subject for yet another book vs. TV show post?
Connell and Marianne have known each other since school, running in different circles and yet finding an undeniable connection between them. Even when life takes them into separate directions, they find themselves gravitating towards each other continuously. Told through snapshots of specific moments and turning points in their lives, often with time jumps of several months in between them, you get to witness their unending love, their platonic and romantic entanglement.
TW: emotional, physical and sexual abuse, depression, suicide and suicidal ideation, anxiety/panic attacks (+for the show especially: graphic nude scenes, full frontal nudity)
I went into this book without any sort of expectation. I might have come across the trailer at that point, but I’m consuming so much media, I hardly remembered anything. I was a blank slate going into Normal People.
Reading it ended up being exhausting and frustrating and intimate and soul-crushing and strange. I was not ready for the harshness that the reality of the situations brought with them. In the beginning, I was too distracted by the format and lack of quotation marks (which I really, really missed) to realize just how deep this story was going to cut.
It’s rare that you find someone you click with on such a profound level. Connell and Marianne could be their best and their worst selves with each other and I found very little judgment that came with it. They were infuriatingly frustrating in that they lacked the communication skills to just tell the other person outright what they wanted, when all they seemed to need was each other, happy. A connection like that is nonetheless rare and even when they, once again, messed everything up with each other and hurt deeply, it was undeniable that they preferred to be in each other’s lives.
It’s a tough read, because it feels truthful and real in a frightening way. The situations were always portrayed as vulnerable and ugly, but also warm and hopeful in far fewer but still existing moments.
This book carves a hole into your soul and leaves you with an empty pit inside you. There’s simply nothing there afterwards and you want to fill it with something, but just like the characters have proven time and time again, it’s really difficult to find something that will actually make you feel better instead of just more miserable. I don’t know if this open end was genius or the final cruel gut punch. It leaves it up to the reader to interpret whether happiness is fleeting and we should appreciate the moments we get, or whether this is not the end. Not truly at least.
Fazit: 4/5 stars! The only reason I subtracted a star is because this book made me feel miserable in so many moments, but that’s a very personal reason.
Page Count: 290
Publisher: Faber & Faber
*click on the cover to get redirected to Goodreads*
For those of you who know me, you are well aware that I watch a lot of shows and movies that have been adapted from books (sometimes even vice-versa), but this one truly hit me in an unexpected way. It’s rare to see something so flawlessly translate to the screen, where the vibe, the expressions, the dialogue, the atmosphere and the feeling remain exactly the same as I had felt them during my reading experience.
The casting of (at least to me) rather unknown Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones was a bold choice that paid of in its entirety. The show hinges on their talent a lot, but they were magnificent in their roles. Their performances felt authentic and raw, dragging you into the tumultuous emotional life of the characters even deeper. There was something so utterly intimate in the way they portrayed Connell and Marianne, I would have believed they were those people instead of acting if anyone had claimed it to be the case.
There’s a couple things that are hard to watch. All these moments exist in the book as well, but there is something so very different about imagining it and seeing it actually happen in front of you.
The only real difference I could spot was maybe Marianne’s mother. It’s not that she was necessarily a better person, but while I found her completely uncaring and cruel in the book, I thought she had glimpses of thought and care for her daughter on the show.
I must give great credit to the various directors of the episodes, editors and just all crew involved. Whoever did the score (actually let me look that up real quick to tell you) … it’s several people, but the score is comprised of mostly acoustic and instrumental tracks, with some covers here and there that fit the atmosphere perfectly. So, whoever did the song selection, you also did a phenomenal job! Everything about the show managed to convey emotions, be it in the framing of the shots, the music, the silences, the colors, the set design or looks interchanged between the actors. Everything felt intentional and there’s very few instances that don’t manage to hit home.
From the massive response the show has received, I can tell that there is a certain want or need for a second season. This sequel would be completely unrelated to the book, because it finishes the exact same way as the show has. Open, free to interpretation, mournful. I would be interested to see this end on a happier note, although I am not sure that’s what the story is destined to be. For now, the cast has said there is no definite talk of a continuation. Maybe that could change with the increased interest?
Until then, you can lust after Connell’s chain with me and the rest of the internet. I love how iconic it has become and that it has its own Instagram profile. Even more so do I love the fact that Paul Mescal is raffling off one of his chains for a good cause. You have until the 8th of June, 2020, to try your luck here. Paul chose a great organisation, Pieta, which provides free therapy to those engaging in self-harm, with suicidal ideation, or bereaved by suicide in Ireland.
There is no better or worse in this case. I have rarely encountered such a faithful adaptation that doesn’t just match the actual dialogue, but also manages to convey the exact same vibe of the story. While I do think that the book adds a bit of inner monologue that’s helpful in some scenes, and I’d therefore recommend reading it first, they are equally as good as the other.
Have you read Normal People? Have you watched it? Are you as obsessed with Connell’s chain? Let’s chat!