Some have claimed that there is a “Sally Rooney Cult”. This is how much noise the 31-year-old from Castlebar-Ireland has produced. Her debut novel “Conversations with Friends” became an immediate Best Seller. Her “Normal People” got a TV adaptation in 2022. At the age of 27 Rooney became the voice of a whole generation. A generation longing for romance, friendship and sex. A generation discovering politics while trying to cope with the changes happening in fast and rapidly.
To begin with, in her new novel “Beautiful World Where Are You“, Rooney lives up to the expectations. For some, her new novel is even better than the previous two. This time, she writes a beautiful story about coming of age in a confusing and rapidly changing world. In creating a central character which struggles with overnight fame, she has described her own frustration with critics.
The novel opens up with Alice – an internet celebrity and literature star. She waits in a pub for Felix, a guy who scans boxes in a warehouse and doesn’t read books. Parallel to their relationship, is the story of Eileen and Simon, Alice’s best friends from Dublin. The couple has been struggling to define their engagement for the last years.
Rooney’s style and language make relationships so compelling. Like with her previous works, she once more examines the Western generation that grew up in the 90s. Now, this generation is facing a collapsing world and insecurity. In the story Alice and Eileen have agreed that human civilization is facing collapse, beauty is dead, art is commodified and the novel irrelevant as a form. The two young Marxists friends, have lives that are very similar to Rooney’s. We read their personal lives through the e-mails they send to one another.
Fans of Rooney will relish the way her characters struggle with uncertainty and the problems of ‘Coming of age’. The emotional difficulties and the barriers that the characters put to themselves for the love of others, is done brilliantly.
How did Rooney manage to follow two successful novels with her third one, especially with her sudden fame pressuring her? She solves this simply by writing about the problem of success. Alice hates literary success and fame means nothing to her. She does not care to make the reader feel special. She writes “They never tire of giving me awards, do they?” and you feel Sally Rooney snatching at you.
Finally, what makes ”Beautiful World Where Are You?” an elevating sample of literature is not the criticism she implies. Is her ability to capture emotions, the ups and downs of any relationship and the undertaking of everyday life. The realization of coming to age, after all, is a hard one and if you have felt it, then this novel is for you.