Title: Beautiful World Where Are You
Author: Sally Rooney
Published: 7th September 2021
Publisher: Faber – Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 2 stars
The new novel from the author of Normal People. Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a distribution warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.
Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young-but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?
Award winning Irish writer Sally Rooney returns after the success of her previous two novels with the highly anticipated Beautiful World, Where Are You. A story of the ails of modern relationships, insecurities, friendships, communication and life in general, this is another millennial feel tale from the popular novelist.
Beautiful World, Where Are You offers an intimate portrait into the lives of two couples. As Rooney breaks down these relationships little by little, she also allows the audience to get to know these characters on an intimate level. We meet Alice, a successful novelist, who opens herself up to a new relationship with Felix, a warehouse distribution worker. Rooney explores the different levels of this relationship as the story unfolds. The other relationship that Rooney exposes is between Alice’s friend Eileen and Simon, a man from her past who she hooks up with again. This proves to be a somewhat disastrous move as the two pivot between love, separation, desire, friendship and casual sex. Each questions their decisions and choices in life along the way. When did life get so complicated and will this foursome manage to attain a sense of true happiness?
I must be one of the very few reviewers and avid readers out there who have not picked up a Sally Rooney novel. The highly acclaimed author of two global bestsellers, one of which was longlisted for coveted Booker Prize, has been teasing her fans for some time now as her last release was published in 2018. It is safe to say that Beautiful World, Where Are You has been one the most talked about and highly anticipated reads of 2021. I managed to buy into the hype and I found myself purchasing a copy of Sally Rooney’s new novel in audio format. I will admit that it was a real struggle to get through this one. The narrator seemed to capture Rooney’s voice, but I struggled with her male character impressions. I’ve decided that Beautiful World, Where Are You was not an excellent read for me, but I am tempted to take a look at the screen adaptions of Rooney’s previous works.
In the beginning I was quite taken with the appealing Irish base of Sally Rooney novel. As a big Irish fiction fan, I am always on the lookout for new authors who are able to capture the easy-going spirit and unique humour line of this brand of fiction. I was keen to see if Rooney could fill this quota. Unfortunately, Rooney didn’t spark a huge amount of interest or excitement for me via my experience of Beautiful World, Where Are You. I will say that I liked the email communication aspects of this story between Alice and her friend Eileen. This was one strength I could pull from my response to the book. However, the heavy emphasis on sex and the love story elements didn’t do anything for me at all. I simply grew tired of these people and their issues. I did feel some sympathy for novelist Alice and I appreciated her honest musings. However, this was not enough to redeem the novel in my eyes.
I did a fair amount of further reading on this one after I finished the novel and I even chatted with a bookseller friend who was quite shocked by lack of enthusiasm and positivity towards the great Sally Rooney. I think this book was simply not well matched to me, which is a shame as Beautiful World, Where Are You seems to express the thoughts of our thirty-somethings living in a modern, pandemic surrounded world.
I will leave Beautiful World, Where Are You in the hands of readers to decide. I hope Sally Rooney’s novel provides a sense of comfort, sentiment and understanding to the right reader – it wasn’t me sadly.
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney was published on 7th September 2021 by Faber – Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney visit here.