11 Books to Read If You Loved 'Normal People'
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, chances are you’ll have binge-watched Normal People. The sensual story of Marianne and Connell—based on Irish writer Sally Rooney’s much-loved second novel—has taken the world by storm, so much so that multiple social media accounts have exploded in the wake of the series, shining a spotlight on everything from the couple’s steamy sex scenes to Connell’s chain.
Whether you read Rooney’s captivating yet chaotic tale of romantic woe back when it was first published in 2018, or in recent weeks in an attempt to keep the memories of Marianne and Connell (and that chain) alive, it’s safe to say that for many of us, there’s something of a gaping hole in our lockdown life where the characters once lived.
And if you’re looking for a literary treat to fill said hole, reminiscent of the couple we simply can’t stop talking about, we’ve rounded up 11 books that will do just that.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
A heady, evocative story about the blossoming romance between two young men in 1980s Italy, Call Me By Your Name became a cult classic in 2017 when this powerful and poignant love story was adapted for the big screen. A novel that explores lust, love and longing, this restless summer romance will sweep you away to the sun-soaked shores of the Italian Riviera.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Shortlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, Ordinary People by Diana Evans is a simmering story of parenthood, marriage, sex and friendship and the intricacies of everyday life, set against a gritty London backdrop that opens on the night of Barack Obama's inauguration. A moody and evocative description of modern marriage, Ordinary People is a beautifully crafted exploration of how the everyday and the remarkable can exist side by side.
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger
Dubbed by fans of Niffenegger as a true modern classic, The Time Traveller’s Wife is a consuming and compelling read that will have you hooked from the very first page. The fantasy element adds an extra layer to what is already a pacy and plot-driven love-story about sacrifice and compromise and so much more besides. Have a box of tissues at the ready.
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Best known for his cult-classic The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot is – while a lesser known novel – no less brilliant. A story whose central character is Madeleine, it tells the tale of a clever girl at an Ivy League university who has two love interests: Leonard and Mitchell. A prose-rich page-turner about a beautifully intricate love-triangle, it is further proof of Eugenides prowess as one of America’s best storytellers.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is beloved by the likes of Barack Obama and Oprah, and it’s easy to see why. An incredibly moving novel that explores race, prejudice and privilege, An American Marriage tells the tale of newlywed couple Celestial and Roy whose lives are turned upside down when Roy is jailed for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. As time goes on their marriage begins to falter, but when Roy’s sentence is abruptly overturned, they have to attempt to piece their lives – and relationship – back together.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The tenth tale from US writer Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings follows the unfolding fates of a group of teenage friends as they transition into adulthood. The novel begins one hot July night in 1974, when the six friends meet at an arts camp and life-long bonds are formed, and observes the shifts and tilts of their friendships, from the height of youth through to the mundanities of middle age. A book about friendship, about ambition and about talent, The Interestings is an unputdownable story about how our lives take the shape that they so inevitably do.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
A quiet yet poignant coming of age story about romance and first love, Norwegian Wood’s evocative and moody nature is reminiscent of Normal People’s. A tale about the relationship between college student Toru, and his girlfriend Noako, whose love is mired by tragedy, Norwegian Wood is a stunning blend of hopeless love, devotion and sacrifice.
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Touted by literary critics as the new Sally Rooney, Exciting Times is the debut offering from Ireland’s hottest new writer, Noaise Dolan. Funny, frank and smart, and written with both stylish and succinct prose. Exciting Times follows the love triangle between Irish expat Ava, banker Julian and lawyer Edith.
The Course of Love by Alain De Botton
While not your typical romance story, The Course of Love by philosopher Alain de Botton is an exploration of what happens after the happily ever after, a piece of the love story you don't often get to see. A stunning depiction of the complexities of modern-day relationships, The Course of Love is a beguiling novel that beautifully tracks the complicated arc of a romantic partnership.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt's thriller The Secret History is widely regarded as one of literature’s best modern classics, and has had a devoted following since its first publication almost thirty years ago. A novel set at an elite New England college, The Secret is both an intellectual novel rich with ideas and a murder mystery without the whodunnit element. While a novel about death rather than romance, Tartt's compelling writing will feel familiar to Rooney's poetic way with words.