Copyright @Delia Cristiana Stamate 2021
Motto: “I’m not sentimental—I’m as romantic as you are. The idea, you know, is that the sentimental person thinks things will last—the romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won’t.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise (1920)
I felt the need to start this review with that motto. Such a well written book! The love story just grows inside of you, you can actually feel the emotions of the characters. The reason why it is so well written is because it portraits situations that every single one of us have encountered throughout a love relationship that we have had.
It also gives you the hope and the feeling of forever. That love between two people can last forever, no matter what.
In addition, it gives an amazing sense of reality, the way times pass by, and how friends come and go. It also shows the characters being there for each other at every important moment of their lives, such as the funeral of a friend, the success of getting a scholarship etc. This is what every reader would like to have from a friend, from a relationship. That’s the teenager’s dream, sold 10 times better. Contrary to “Beautiful world, where are you?”, where there is a sense of no conclusion, this time we have a clear beginning.
The parallel between the social classes and how their love story survives throughout this whole hierarchy fight is vividly described, so there are many pertinent scenes that emphasize exactly what goes wrong with society nowadays.
It makes you contemplate: if the social class system had not existed, if all the opportunities and the social pressure had not been there, maybe Connell and Marianne would have been together and already married.
Is it the differences between them that kept them together? It feels like they always found each other, no matter what, they knew how to find a way to communicate and understand each other. This gives me a utopic view of the book, but the author tends to do that in her novels, which makes you ask yourself: can this happen in real life? And if it happens, is it healthy? Is it healthy to go back and forth with someone like this and leave your life the way Marianne and Connell did?
This book proves that she is a good writer, as this book has been read and re-read by millions of people, some of who are not fans of this genre. This shows the power of a great story, the skills of a writer.
I like the fact she explores BDSM, depression, suicide, and other issues teenagers and young people face nowadays.
The Parallel between Connell Lorraine – and Marianne and her mum is more or less a cliché: the rich girl without a family bond, toxic mother and brother and the poor guy, with a healthy mother-son relationship.
What I didn’t like
It seemed a bit unrealistic that Connell didn’t tell Marianne that he wanted to stay the summer, I mean, if we really think of how this would happen nowadays, no guy would be shy enough not to ask this. The same as Connell’s father, who was briefly mentioned by Lorraine, about whom no one had ever heard of or said anything about- Ireland is a small country, news travel fast.
As I got to the end of the book, I constantly got the feeling that something was missing. That’s something that was missing, and I think with this effect, created by the writer, it encouraged the audience to get so enthralled. It felt like a race reading the book, wanting to find out what was next, what is going to happen to Marianne and Connell in the end.
Definitely a must read.
The title is very interesting, it seems like the characters are anything but normal and all that they want is to be normal. Maybe Marianne would like to have a normal family, no toxic mother and brother and a dad close to her. Maybe Connell would have loved to meet his dad and have Lorraine working in a better job, in order to afford college. Maybe both would have liked a normal relationship.
The lack of a father figure in both characters is an interesting trait that they both share. This might explain the depression, the suicide tendencies, the sexual activity.
A morbid twist, in my view, would have been if Connell and Marianne would have shared the same father, without knowing.
About the ending
There is so much more to be said.
She is not Fitzgerald to end a epic love story the way she did, but at the same time she doesn’t have good enough well rounded characters to give her that option (to do it like Fitzgerald).
For example, when Fitzgerald was writing about the the jazz age, he had an amazing context to explore. I find that “Normal People” had a very similar success with “The Side of Paradise”, and that Connell’s and Marianne’s love story is a modern version of Amory’s and Isabelle’s.
On the other hand, it gave me the same feeling of an unaccomplished love story, like the one in “Gone with the wind”.
All in all, if I would describe the love story between Marianne and Connell, I think I would still quote from Anna Karenina, when Vronsky tells Anna: “There can be no peace for us, only misery, and the greatest happiness.”