“Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell.”

Last year, I read Conversations with Friends which a friend had been gently nagging me to have a go at. I ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I would. This was not the end of the nagging however, as then attention was turned to Sally Rooney’s second novel. So here we are.

Connell and Marianne live in the same small Irish town, but have very different backgrounds. Marianne lives in a large house with her mother and brother, and Connell’s mother cleans for them. Despite this difference, the two begin a friendship of sorts, although Connell is so concerned that people at school will judge him for talking to weird friendless Marianne that he keeps everything about it a secret and doesn’t speak to her in public. When the relationship becomes sexual, the two find themselves incredibly compatible, but Connell’s pride threatens to ruin everything.

Over the next five years, at university and out the other side, they continue to weave in and out of one another’s lives and beds, their relationship constantly changing, yet somehow still being the one constant in their lives. As they grow and change and learn more about themselves, it seems that no matter what they do, they are continually drawn back to one another, for better or for worse.

Perhaps inevitably because it’s by the same author, but I found myself having many of the same feelings about this one as I did Conversations with Friends, although I think I slightly prefer that one. Rooney’s writing continues to sing, with its curiously poetic quality. Although there were fewer lines in here that jumped out at me and struck me in that bit of the brain that thinks, “That’s exactly it”, there is still something utterly compelling about it all, and the characters feel real in ways I can’t really fathom. In terms of plot, not much happens, and yet we are drawn deeply and fully into this small world where we find ourselves sitting alongside these people. Part of me wanted to dislike them both, and yet I can’t. That’s not to say I particularly want to be friends with them, but I don’t dislike them.

I guess the biggest compliment I can pay the book is that I could have read another two hundred pages of it, at least. Perhaps after a while the idea would have grown stale, but when it finished I just wanted to know what happened next. That’s not to say that it ends badly, it doesn’t, and the ending emphasises the cyclical nature of life and in particular the relationship between Connell and Marianne.

It’s going to stick with me, and I can’t say that about everything I’ve read. I wonder if this is the beginning of a long and plentiful career, or whether Rooney will rest on her laurels with these two brilliant novels.

My second novel, The Third Wheel, is now available on Amazon and Waterstones! It tells the story of Dexter, a twenty-something teacher who is struggling with the fact that he alone among his friends is single and isn’t ready to grow up. But when aliens invade, it puts a lot of his problems into perspective. Mixing comedy, science fiction and horror, the novel promises to have something for everyone. I hope you’ll check it out!