Booked & Busy #3: Beautiful World, Where Are You
"Beautiful world, where are you" is more than a beautifully designed cover.
In her new book, Sally Rooney continues being true to her signature writing style as she walks us through a snapshot of the lives of Alice, Eileen, Felix, and Simon. With a narrative that reminds us of "Normal People" and "Conversations with Friends", you should get ready for detailed descriptions, complicated characters, intricate relationships, and intense (unquoted) dialogues.
Alice is a famous novelist, with an intriguing past and personality. Felix works in a warehouse and doesn't hesitate to speak his mind. Eileen, Alice's best friend, works as an editor in the city. As she's dealing with a break-up, she finds herself entangled with Simon, a handsome, noble man she has known since she was a child. They're friends and lovers. They're millennials struggling to find a way to believe in a beautiful world.
In their quest for a more optimistic world view, Alice and Eileen (the two main characters) exchange profound, intellectual, and extensive emails touching on topics such as climate-change anxiety, hope, the meaning of success, class-consciousness, culture and society, personal relationships, faith, gender, the meaning of life, power, and sex among others. These exchanges spiked my curiosity on certain topics and even helped me discover different perspectives. However, these conversations don't seem to appeal to all audiences. Some readers found them to be overbearing, difficult to follow, snobbish, boring, or just too much. I guess it depends on your interests, personality, and what you're expecting from this novel. I couldn't stop myself from devouring chapter after chapter as I found the conversations amusing and stimulating. A little gift that completed the narrative and gave more insights into the characters.
Some readers draw a parallelism between Alice (who let's remember, is a professional writer) and the actual Sally Rooney, speculating with the idea of the latter using the character as a vessel to express her controversial opinions on the literature and publishing industry. However, because I don't hang out with Rooney on a regular basis, I don't know her enough to make up my mind about this fact, and in my opinion, this is also not a necessary easter egg to enjoy the read. Alice is already a deeply interesting (and complicated) character in herself.
Because Rooney is a master in creating intriguing, deep, and flawed characters, she manages to keep you hooked on their thoughts, feelings, and their personal development up to the point where you completely forget about the plot and what the characters *actually* do in their lives. The story takes shape through the things they say (or leave unsaid), their gestures, how they deal with their vulnerability, and the awkward situations they are thrown in. Not going to lie, on some occasions I did find these characters to be overly complicated and unrealistic. But that's what Rooney is all about, that's what makes her stories something different.
If you are searching for a book full of drama that actually manages to go beyond that and somehow also manages to examine an array of socio-political and interpersonal issues, this one is for you. Sally Rooney delivers it beautifully.