I read Irish author Sally Rooney’s Normal People late last year, but to be honest, though it had only been a few months, I had no recollection of the novel. I didn’t even remember reading it until I was watching the first episode of Hulu’s television adaptation and started to experience a sense of Déjà vu. It’s not because the book was bad — I apparently gave it four stars on Goodreads — I think it’s that the people I pictured in my head in the lead roles were so far removed from Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal that it did not immediately register.
Now, I can’t imagine anyone else better suited to the roles of Marianne and Connell. Even though I knew where Normal People was headed, I got so swept up in their romance that — for the first time in months — I actually managed to forget about the real world for 12 half-hour episodes. I fell into the story of Marianne and Connel hard, and it’s not because of the 22-minutes of sex scenes so hot that they were added to Pornhub (although, it doesn’t hurt).
It’s because Marianne and Connell’s relationship feels real and powerful and sad and amazing and heartbreaking and bittersweet and tremendous. It’s an achy, messy will-they, won’t-they Ross-and-Rachel on steroids, but every moment feels true and after 12 episodes, I wanted another 12 immediately (though, if they add a second season, I will murder someone, because there’s too much of a risk of ruining perfection).
There’s really not much of a “story” to Normal People, which makes Rooney, co-writer Alice Birch, and directors Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald adaptation all the more impressive. Normal People is about two flawed people who fall madly madly in love in high school but who are kept apart through their time at Trinity by their own mental and emotional issues. He’s poor but well-liked and suffers from depression. She’s from an abusive family. They both have major insecurities, which drives their inability to stay together, and it hurts because they are so obviously great for one another.
I won’t say much more than that, except that — if you’ve read it — it successfully tracks Rooney’s novel, and as great as it was, I think that Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal are somehow able to elevate what was already great material. Granted, Normal People is not for anyone looking for escapist junk, but for anyone who wants to feel the longing, the heartbreak, and the joy of falling in and out of love, Normal People is maybe a perfect series.
Header Image Source: Hulu