‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ by Sally Rooney Book Review

by Trina Read

One of my favourite reads of 2021! What can’t Sally Rooney do?

Sally Rooney has done it again with her new release Beautiful World, Where Are You. The novel was released on the 7th September but I got my copy a day or so later with the Books That Matter September box. For just 1p more than the RRP of the hardback you got the book, some vegan chocolate snacks, a tote bag and 2 BWWAY bookmarks and a print. I am a massive fan of Books That Matter and I was incredibly excited when I saw they were collaborating with Faber for this release.

As soon as the book arrived, I began reading it and devoured it in just two days. This, for me, was a 4.5/5 stars read. I was blown away by Rooney’s beautiful prose as per usual and personally I would say this is my favourite of Rooney’s books so far. This novel manages to keep the familiar elements of Normal People – complex, flawed characters, nuanced relationships, commentary on social issues – whilst breaking away from the expectations set from the popularity of her second release. What is particularly strong with Rooney’s novels is their ability to stand alone – I am never left wanting more as she manages to tie the loose ends and leave the reader feeling satisfied, though not without many things to ponder.

I really enjoyed the love quadrangle element, like there is in Conversations with Friends. Being able to follow four characters and their relationships with each other, for me, makes for a well-rounded, complex novel. But as a character over plot driven novel kind of girl, I would say that. I was more invested in Eileen and Simon’s romance; however, I think this comes down to personal preference as Rooney dedicated equal time to both narratives. Once again, Rooney writes about real relationships in their complexities in the modern world not the buttered up flowery ones you often read about. There is something to relate to for everyone.

Although the letters interwoven between chapters were confusing and overly academic at times, I found some of the ideas very interesting – the debates surrounding the contemporary novelist certainly piqued my interest after studying contemporary literature at university in my final year. I won’t say too much more to avoid spoilers. I love that Rooney also challenges the norm and isn’t afraid to present ideas that aren’t in the mainstream consciousness – she is not just adding to the narrative that is already there, but she is creating new narratives.

My favourite part of this book, however, was a certain chapter in which Rooney switches perspectives between sentences as she describes the way two characters feel about each other. This was the first time I have read a chapter or passage of a novel and had to stop reading and take a breath simply because the writing itself took my breath away. It was incredibly flawlessly executed and left me in awe that someone can write that well. A bit of jealousy there for sure.

Overall, this book managed to somehow exceed my high expectations and hopes for it. Currently my favourite read of 2021 and I don’t see anything taking it over any time soon.

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