When I initially sat down to read Sally Rooney’s highly-anticipated third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, I itched with the anticipation of being completely subservient to the literary grasp of contemporary fiction’s most impressive and promising author. As a serious fan of Sally Rooney, I’ve often ignored the lack of relatability to her characters and focused entirely on her literary skill and her ability to write deeply and profoundly, exploring ever so generously the impact of mental health on present day familial, platonic, and romantic relationships. On this occasion, while I enjoyed Sally’s beautiful prose and art for character development, I felt somewhat perplexed as I made my way through the novel.
Beautiful World, Where Are You does well in exploring the complexities of intimate relationships between characters who lead separate yet intertwined lives. Alice, Eileen, Felix and Simon are young, lost, complicated people conscious of the passing of their youth as well as how the loss of it leaves them redundant in the world.
While void of a conclusive plot, Beautiful World, Where Are You is a masterpiece that confirms Rooney’s literary talent and unmatchable skill for writing in the now. However, upon completing the novel, I was left with a strange feeling of not only being a spectator to Alice, Eileen, Felix, and Simon’s lives, but an other to the world Sally creates for her characters. In a recent interview with The Guardian Rooney comments: “It’s not my job to populate my books with characters that other people find relatable. It’s my job to write about whatever comes into my head. If you don’t want to read novels about writers or women or Irish people, don’t read my novels.”