Beautiful World Where Are You (Special Edition)

Sally Rooney

 
Beautiful World Where Are You (Special Edition)
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Beautiful World Where Are You (Special Edition)

Sally Rooney

This limited hardback edition has a yellow dust jacket and gorgeous illustrated endpapers, and includes an exclusive short story.

Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a distribution warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.


Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young-but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

 

Review

Calling Sally Rooney’s third novel (in only four years) highly anticipated doesn’t quite cut it. Thanks to the immense global success of both Conversations with Friends and Normal People, which topped bestseller charts and spawned film and TV adaptations, the young Irish writer is kind of a big deal. She’s has been called a great millennial novelist; her character-driven studies of class, sex and relationships are witty, cerebral and utterly compelling. And if you’re a fan, eagerly looking forward to her latest – well, Beautiful World, Where Are You is quite simply as good as you’re hoping it will be (dare I say even better).

On the surface, Beautiful World, Where Are You plays right into the Rooney formula. The central friendship explored is between Alice and Eileen; both in their late 20s, thin, White and university educated. Alice is a successful novelist recovering from a nervous breakdown in a small seaside town, where she’s started dating Felix. Back home in Dublin, Eileen is working at a literary magazine and questioning her relationship with a childhood friend, Simon. Alice and Eileen write long emails to each other: updates on their lives interwoven with musings on culture, climate change and politics (post-Brexit, pre-Covid).

The form and structure of this novel is what sets it apart from Rooney’s earlier work. The epistolary emails intimately illustrate how Alice and Eileen are feeling (or how they wish to be perceived by each other, at the very least). However, these emails are offset by alternating chapters written in the third person. Here, by Rooney’s deft hand, the reader observes the actions of these four characters from a cool distance. We eavesdrop on their conversations (Rooney’s dialogue is as engaging as any great TV script) but are denied any omniscient insights into their internal state. The contrast between chapters feels like switching between coolness and heat, symbolising so much about how humans interact with one another and creating a narrative propulsion that builds to a pitch-perfect conclusion.

Finishing Beautiful World, Where Are You left me with an ache – I immediately wanted to start this novel again from the beginning. Rooney fans will not be disappointed, and anyone else curious about this month’s most talked-about book is in for a treat.


Stella Charls is a bookseller at Readings Carlton

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