Normal People Reading Group Questions

To celebrate the launch of the TV adaptation of Normal People, we hosted a live read-along on Twitter.

 

Thank you to everyone who took part in our Twitter read-along of Normal People.

If you missed the live discussion, we have collected together all the points discussed in each page section, so that you can follow these as you read or reread the novel:

 

Pages 1–44

 

‘Being alone with her is like opening a door away from normal life and then closing it behind him.’ 

Connell confesses he fears being around Marianne because of the confusing way he behaves. How far are both characters surprised by their feelings? 

 

‘In school he and Marianne affect not to know each other.’ 

Are you critical of how Connell treats Marianne in school or sympathetic towards his efforts to understand his feelings? 

 

What effect does the potential perception of Marianne and Connell as a ‘mismatched’ couple have on the beginning of their relationship? 

Connell:

‘He’s studious, he plays centre forward in football, he’s good-looking, he doesn’t get into fights. Everybody likes him.’ 

Marianne:

‘She has no friends and spends her lunchtimes alone reading novels. A lot of people really hate her.’ 

 

Pages 45–93

 

 ‘Connell wished he knew how other people conducted their private lives, so that he could copy from example.’ 

Connell tells Marianne he loves her. To what extent do his feelings confuse him? Does he mean it? 

 

How does the shift in power dynamic at Trinity change Connell and Marianne’s relationship? To what extent does class play a part in the novel? 

 

Pages 94–152 

 

Love is a theme explored in many novels, but what does Sally Rooney particularly capture about being young and in love in the contemporary western world? 

 

‘Politics students who turn up to her parties with bottles of Moët and anecdotes about their summers in India.’ 

How does Connell’s unease with Marianne’s friends affect their relationship at Trinity? 

 

‘I’m not a religious person but I do sometimes think God made you for me.’ 

How do Marianne and Connell’s other relationships contrast with their own? 

 

‘She was never really his girlfriend, she wasn’t even his ex-girlfriend. She’s nothing.’ 

Connell and Marianne never label their relationship. How does this ambiguity affect them both?

 

‘It was too late to say he wanted to stay with her, that was clear, but when had it become too late?’ 

An example of miscommunication between the two, how might their relationship have turned out differently if they had moved in together? 

 

Pages 153–199 

 

Connell and Marianne both win scholarships. Do their differing reactions reveal anything about their characters? 

 

Do you think Helen and Marianne are very different? 

 

Did you enjoy the change in scenery when the characters holiday in Italy? How does that change the narrative? 

 

Marianne becomes increasingly submissive as the novel progresses. Why do you think she is so repelled by Lukas when he confesses his love for her? 

 

Pages 200–266 

 

What are the main themes of this book? 

 

How have Connell and Marianne grown as characters and how has their relationship evolved throughout the novel?

 

 ‘They’ve done a lot of good for each other. Really, she thinks, really. People can really change one another.’ 

What are some of your favourite lines from the book? 

 

How do you interpret the ending of the novel?

 

 

Watch the full series of the Normal People TV adaptation now on BBC iPlayer.

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