Title: Beautiful World, Where Are You
Author: Sally Rooney
First Published: 7th September 2021
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
“…but all that really means is that I love my life, and I’m really excited to have it back again, excited to feel that its going to continue, that new things will keep happening, that nothing is over yet.”
Whilst reading this book, I was reminded of my favourite module at university, which ended up shaping my whole dissertation, area of historical interest and niche in my degree. It wasn’t necessarily the content that was brought to mind, but the style of the teaching. Our lecturer didn’t believe in Powerpoint, so he would read to us his scripted insights from written notes on paper. There was no recording to watch back afterwards and no visual aid to nicely condense things for me. Yet, something about this style made me sit up and listen, pay attention, and work hard to understand.
Beautiful World Where Are You does not read like a nicely condensed presentation of visually pleasing bullet points. Instead, the conversations felt a little confusing to follow, the narration a little distant and ominous, the plot fairly cloudy. Yet I could not put this book down. Sally Rooney tangles you up in her reflections, questions and suggestions, in a way that made me pause, listen, and work at understanding them.
This was my first Sally Rooney book, so I don’t really have her other novels to compare this one to, and I didn’t even really quite comprehend the hype surrounding her writing. I was really glad to go into this book without any preconceived ideas about what it was or would be, and that open mind definitely worked in my favour because this book was a whole lot of things!
To me, it felt like it lay somewhere in between a contemporary novel and literary fiction. Sometimes this meant that I was getting lost in a romantic scene, and at other times contemplating conceptual themes. I felt like Rooney created a story that was authentic and relatable to the millennial experience in a deep and reflective way. Despite the ominous narration, I really felt like I got to see and know the parts of each character that would naturally have been revealed to a friend. Yet I also felt the freedom to pick apart their characteristics with an objectivity that a lot of contemporary novels don’t provide.
I appreciated that Sally Rooney doesn’t shy away from talking about things that she hasn’t quite figured out herself. I feel like she engages the reader to question and search along with her, which created a very invitational feel to the whole book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one, and am sure I will go back and read her other works very soon!