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  • Tracy Sherlock

Read Beautiful World, not for the plot, but for the thinking


Beautiful World, Where Are You?

by Sally Rooney

Penguin Random House

I love this book, but I can’t tell you too much about it. Like Irish author Sally Rooney’s other novels, nothing much happens, but everything happens. It’s hard to explain.

Beautiful World, Where Are You begins with Alice, a novelist, and Felix, meeting on a Tinder date in a pub in a small town in Ireland. It doesn’t go well. Alice’s best friend, Eileen, lives in Dublin and the pair correspond via emails. Neither one seems keen to visit, in fact they might be avoiding each other. Eileen was recently dumped by her long-time boyfriend, but has started up a flirtation with a childhood friend, Simon.

Most of the action takes place inside the characters’ heads, but, just like in life, that’s often where the best stuff happens. Some of it is explained in those emails that Alice and Eileen exchange – for instance, the reader is treated to their views on the meaning of life, truth and beauty. In other emails, they expound on lost ancient languages, what it means to believe in God or hidden truths in classic novels. Pretty heady stuff.

But in between these deep waters, Rooney’s characters are just regular folk. They fight over silly insecurities, they can’t get beyond their pride, they hate their jobs, they cut themselves at work. And not to mention, they have sex, and I should warn you that Rooney is a bit famous for her sexy sex scenes.

Rooney is just 30 years old and already she’s written three bestselling and acclaimed novels: Beautiful World, Where Are You, Normal People and Conversations with Friends. Normal People has already been made into a limited TV series and Conversations with Friends is in development for TV. I’m sure Beautiful World, Where Are You won’t be far behind.

Even as I was reading this book, I knew I had to read it again, not for the plot but for the thinking. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to reopen it. I think it will hook you too.

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