Radio review: The stellar rise of novelist Sally Rooney

Nuala McCann

Beautiful World, Where are you? by Sally Rooney

Arena RTE - Sally Rooney review

In just four years since her novel, Conversations with Friends, Irish writer Sally Rooney has had a stellar rise.

She's a best selling author whose novel, Normal People, became a television series that had everyone gripped and divided opinion in lots of interesting ways.

Go back to RTE's Liveline if you want to hear the craic and the scandalised voices.

Her latest offering, Beautiful World, Where are you? comes loaded with expectation.. no pressure on the young writer then.

Rooney has been called the First Great Millennial Novelist and “Salinger for the Snapchat Generation”, again no pressure.

Advance copies of her latest novel were selling for 200 dollars on the internet … honestly, no pressure.

The press is full of interviews with the novelist who comes across as a very private person.

RTE's Arena recently reviewed Rooney's latest offering in the light of all the hype and the expectation.

Reviewer Mary McGill's advice was to “just focus on what's on the page”.

Of course there will be the good old fashioned Irish begrudgers, the serious naysayers, the critics who say these books are just love stories but, McGill pointed out, yes they are but so are many of the greatest novels.

Confession to make, I haven't actually read Beautiful World, Where are you?

But McGill's very positive review whetted the appetite.

“So much of the hype (around Beautiful World, Where Are You?) casts an awful lot of heat but very little in the way of light” she said.

The book tells the story of Alice, a hugely successful writer who is finding the publicity very difficult and Eileen, an editorial assistant.

You have to ask where the intersection comes between Rooney's lived experience of success and her portrayal of Alice.

In Arena, McGill said Rooney writes sex brilliantly – “not smutty, preachy or silly” - and her style is exquisite.

It's also Rooney's most political novel yet – it has a sense of malaise and nihilism, she noted.

But she thoroughly recommended the read and I'm just passing this on to those of you out there who might want to pick it up.

It sounds like a book worth getting.

For those of us who like to listen rather than read – the pandemic has played havoc with some readers' ability to sit down with a book – there is another solution.

Go over to BBC Sounds – there you'll happen upon the novel which has been the late night listen this week and will continue at 22.45 BST for the week ahead too.

Will Alice and Eileen find happiness? Let's see.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access