The craze around Normal People has yet to diminish. The novel, written by Irish author Sally Rooney, was released in 2018 to commercial success and its popularity has only increased tenfold since. This success can be partly attributed to the Emmy-nominated TV adaptation of the novel which aired early this year, gifting a nation in lockdown an antidote in the form of bingeable escapism.
The novel follows the narrative of unlikely high school sweethearts Connell and Marianne. They each belong to opposite ends of the social spectrum, yet find themselves being constantly thrown together and torn apart, their lives intersecting and diverging while battling the struggles of young adulthood. It is a story of love, lust, pain, and, essentially, growing up.
The BBC adaptation of the novel beautifully portrays the intensity of Connell and Marianne’s relationship and the brutal forces that trouble it
I happened to pick this book up before learning of the soon-to-be released adaptation and, like any other literature student whose love for books has roots in mercilessly devouring every new YA book on the market, I devoured this too. There is something about the classic ‘will-they-or-will-they-not’ trope that is frustratingly captivating, and Rooney tackles it wonderfully with a rawness that strips back the characters to a provoking vulnerability. What is especially refreshing about Rooney’s treatment of the angsty, love story trope is how it operates alongside an active dialogue that engages in important discussions. It tackles discussions on mental health, social class, societal expectations, and family, crossing the boundary of a young adult readership into a wider demographic.
The BBC adaptation of the novel beautifully portrays the intensity of Connell and Marianne’s relationship and the brutal forces that trouble it. The choice to draw out the show into a series of twelve episodes effectively reproduces the tug of war that the relationship embodies from the start as they individually encounter issues that sway the course of their story. Although the intimacy of narration is lost within the distance placed between viewer and character, the performances of the cast and the choice of dialogue makes up for this. We are still able to successfully interpret the inner dialogue of the characters.
After a novel and an adaptation of said novel, what else is there to do? Release the screenplay book, of course!
The screenplay book may serve as a useful tool to study from and learn how the different dynamics and sentiments of the series are conveyed in organic dialogue
What are we supposed to get from this book? Obviously it is incomparable to the original novel, since a screenplay is naturally devoid of the interior details that the screen replicates through performance. The same essence generated through Rooney’s words, painfully captured through the performances of Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, will not be found here. Materially, other than dialogue and stage directions, the book doesn’t appear to offer much more upon first impressions. However, to a film or TV fanatic looking to break into the industry, the screenplay book may serve as a useful tool to study from and learn how the different dynamics and sentiments of the series are conveyed in organic dialogue. One may even want to compare the original novel to the screenplay book in a study of how novels are adapted into a different form, observing such questions as which details were left out, how the characters differ, what the writers’ artistic intentions were, etc. The accompanying interview from director Lenny Abrahamson may assist this approach.
Or, perhaps, there are passionate Normal People fans who simply want the book as a keepsake, to be displayed fondly on a coffee table, in the same way that I bought the Twilight Saga collection despite having the individual films. I admit that I feel marginally tempted to buy the book out of sheer curiosity; it would be insightful to momentarily place yourself in the shoes of an author. They have to string together the most significant aspects of their novel in order to present a highly anticipated product which attempts to replicate the magic of the novel’s pages. That sounds dreadfully stressful.
It has also become recent news that Rooney’s first book, Conversations with Friends, is following the path of Normal People and getting its own series, with the same team that worked on Normal People set to work on this project too. It will be interesting to see if a screenplay book is released for this as well, or whether it is a decision determined by success.
One thing we know for sure, however, is that after the success of her first two novels, eager eyes are on Rooney for her next top-selling release.