Friday, October 15, 2021

Book Review: Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Genre: Adult Fiction/Audio Book
Pub. Date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: Normal People
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a 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?"




Eileen and Alice are old university friends and now they are in their upper 20s navigating adulthood.  Eileen works at a literary magazine in Dublin and Alice is a famous novelist.  Things haven't been easy for Alice though. She had a nervous breakdown and is now finding solitude on the west coast of Ireland.  They keep in touch through long-winded emails that describe everything from who they are dating to the state of the world. Regarding their love lives, Eileen has harbored strong feelings for her childhood crush, Simon, and they are on and off again. Then there's Alice who has met Felix, the warehouse worker. He is pretty much the opposite of her, but perhaps this is what she needs? Felix isn't quite sure how to take her fame though.  The novel examines modern romance in a sense and the trials and tribulations of women dating in their 20s during a difficult political and social climate. In classic Sally Ronney style, she accomplishes that and more in Beautiful World, Where Are You.

Eileen and Alice have a friendship that has spanned many years and I enjoyed them in Beautiful World, Where Are You.  Both are smart, bookish, and have their struggles with dating. They rehash their issues in emails back and forth to one another trying to navigate and reflect on things.  Rooney captures social awkward situations and characters so well. I really could feel the drama and the angst permeating off the page much like in Normal People. Both characters don't fully communicate and consequently this impacts their lives. 

The one issue with Beautiful World, Where Are You is the fact that I didn't feel connected to Eileen and Alice as I did with the characters in Normal People. Rooney made me curious about Alice and Eileen, but I wasn't overly invested. I was merely observing them in a sense and I think that may be a byproduct of the way it was written as a lot of the character development is done via emails. Their emails are long and at first I thought who would write such a long email about really nothing? But then I was hooked. The emails were like mini essays about everything from the use of plastics, to the political climate, to the fate of the world. This is where Rooney excels and in turn it morphs into such a smart read and not your typical run of the mill romance.  

I listened to the audio version of Beautiful World, Where Are You and it was outstanding. I thought the narrator captured the Irish brogue without it being too grating or too difficult to understand. She brought the characters to life, especially the parts where she read their emails. Beautiful World, Where Are You is one of my favorite audio books of the year.

While I liked Normal People a bit more than this angsty and brooding novel, I still think Beautiful World, Where Are You was smart, well written, thought provoking, and interesting.  I'd recommend it to fans of Rooney as well as fans of John Green. So, is Beautiful World, Where Are You on your TBR list? Have you read it already? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 




  1. I have to admit, that blurb would not have grabbed me, but your review has me intrigued!

    1. Thanks, Angela! Lots of emotional drama in this one! Thanks for dropping by!


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