Sally Rooney’s new book “Beautiful World, Where Are You” has already become the biggest fiction title of 2021 in mere days and millennial book clubs are going gaga over it. Borrowing its title from Friedrich Schiller’s poem, Beautiful World, Where Are You is exactly the kind of book one would expect of her but more mature than her previous work and intense when detailing intimate relations.
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney is a fascinating and beautifully written story of life. It centers around four people—Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon—living their mundane millennial lives in Ireland, with friendship and relationships intertwined. Set in the backdrop of Brexit/Trump Era, the novel is about connections between human beings and all the messiness of living and loving in the 21st century.
Like her previous books, it also doesn’t have quotation marks “…” around the spoken words which is irksome for many being not able to identify the speech while clever for others (depending on how you perceive).
‘Beautiful World, Where Are you’: Book at a Glance
- Released On: September 7, 2021
- Suitable Age Group: 15 and above
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Total Pages: 353
- Available at Amazon | Bookshop
1. Who is Sally Rooney?
Sally Rooney, an Irish author and screenwriter, is often described as the best young novelist of her generation. She has an incredible talent for capturing raw emotion and her dialogue is always spot on. Her stories are special and she writes with honesty and emotion.
- Born on: February 20, 1991, Castlebar, Ireland.
- Education: Trinity College Dublin
- Genre: Fiction
- Popular Books: Conversations with Friends (2017), Normal People (2018) & Beautiful World, Where Are You (2021)
- Notable awards: Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year (2017)
Sally Rooney has published two immensely successful books before she turned 28. Her recent release is Beautiful World, Where Are You, which is gaining immense popularity since its publication. The book is bold and smart; Rooney’s most mature work to-date. She knows how to write relationships. Her books capture something of intimacy that is often missed, a kind of sadness and vulnerability that just make you ache for her characters.
Sally Rooney has become a popular feminist icon and also been hailed as the first great millennial novelist for writing stories about love and late capitalism. However, there exist a division around her works among readers which makes her a bit controversial. After all, not everyone can be pleased.
2. ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ by Sally Rooney: A Brief Book Summary (Spoiler-free)
The story of Beautiful World, Where Are You follows Alice and Eileen, two best friends from college who grew apart in recent years. Alice is a big time novelist who has made weaves with her first two books whereas Eileen is a low level editor at a literary magazine in Dublin. However, the couple remains in touch via email, updating each other about what’s going on in their lives professionally as well as romantically.
Alice, after suffering a breakdown, leaves New York City and moves to the countryside of Ireland. Here she meets Felix, a man she hardly knows, and asks him to travel to Rome with her for some book events. On the other hand, Eileen has recently broken up with her long term boyfriend and then slipped back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since her teenage and had a crush on.
While still young, all the four protagonists are getting on with their lives and have struggled so far as to fit into the traditional box called life. In a never ending cycle of passion, love, desire, highs and lows, pain and insecurities, would these characters find people that will fill their cup and make their world brighter?
Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You is a book that possesses a beauty of its own.
3. ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ by Sally Rooney: Book Review
Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You doesn’t have a strong plot. It revolves around conversations with four best friends about their personal lives trying find their way to fulfillment in life by engaging in dating relationships and pursuing conversations about politics (all the while not actually doing anything practical). The opening of the book is quite entertaining and brimmed with sharp, witty humor which soon progresses in to devouring email conversations. While reading it, I found myself drawn to Rooney’s characters, constantly judging them—sometimes finding them flawed while at others unable to understand their motivations.
She has painted in a very peculiar style the emotional and intellectual lives of ordinary people with such care and sincerity. She has portrayed a complete emotional mess in a really brilliant way. Moreover, Rooney has masterfully stripped dialogues and language down to its bare form, thus conveying the biggest ideas with the barest prose.
As I already mentioned, Rooney has dispersed the story of Beautiful World, Where Are You through emails between Alice and Eileen, the two main characters of the book. These emails alternated from Alice and Eileen every other chapter. While writing to one another, these two friends figure out the difficulties of life and love throughout the story.
The perspective of the story frequently switches from email correspondence between Alice and Eileen, to third person perspective of the four protagonists. However, in these non-email chapters of the book we don’t learn something new. Through the characters’ observations about the present time, the author has brilliantly articulated certain issues of politics, philosophy, religion, civilization, and climate change etc. Furthermore, the characters are portrayed with such realness and familiarity that it is absolutely impossible for the reader to let go of them easily.
3.1. Ending of Sally Rooney’s ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’
The ending of ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ hit me really hard. But in all the right places! People may have mixed opinions on the ending of the book, but I really did enjoy it. It’s utterly perfect! The book ends on such an inspiring and beautiful note. Rooney has given her book a neat ‘happy ending’, or maybe a version of one. Although I wasn’t expecting it, the author did it anyway. And I honestly spent a considerable amount of time weeping at the end (catharsis, you know it’s a good thing! Isn’t it?).
The ending of ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ is another thing which has made me a huge fan of Sally Rooney. The first being her art of storytelling and peculiar style of writing.
3.2. Why Should You Read Sally Rooney’s ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’?
Beautiful World, Where Are You is my first Sally Rooney book and after reading it I’ve become a fan of her writing style. At first, I decided to read Rooney’s first two books—either Normal People or Conversations with Friends. But then I just went into this one blind without any prior expectations. Now I think it was the best way to go and I had such an amazing experience reading this book.
Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You is an outstanding literary achievement. It’s a story about navigating careers, friendships and relationships, with characters that are realistically flawed, struggling to honestly convey their thoughts and emotions. The emails between friends, Alice and Eileen, are intimate in that they not only speak about their lives, but share their thoughts on the world, from climate change to beauty, religion, and having children.
Beautiful World, Where Are You is a kind of book that begs to be underlined, annotated, and re-read. So I’m looking forward to returning to this book (after a while) for a second (or third or maybe fourth) time and giving more of my attention to it.
Sally Rooney is a well consumed and beloved author. Her style is amazing, mature and contemplative. Besides, her characters are real and familiar, and her story is lucid and moving too. Rooney has raised big existential questions and expressed various thoughts and themes, all very timely and current. And there is also a connection to Pandemic. Overall, this book will make you feel flabbergasted. It’s definitely worth reading!
If you’re not a fan of Rooney’s work, you can still read this book. If you’ve never read any of Sally Rooney’s books, you can still enjoy it. And, if you love Rooney’s signature style, then this one’s definitely for you. In fact, it’s a must read of the year!
3.3. What I liked Most About ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ by Sally Rooney?
I really liked the story of Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You. It was quite engrossing that I could easily read more than 50 pages of the book in one sitting. And from 50 pages onward, the book fully grabbed my attention and I was completely invested, with my love for the characters (excluding Felix) growing with every chapter.
Rooney’s writing style is truly unique. She has packed several thoughts and themes into the pages of her book. For instance, friendship, love, capitalism, religion, children, climate change/over-consumption, and the idealism of celebrities. I really enjoyed many of them, but particularly loved the depiction of the friendship between Alice and Eileen. Moreover, the author possesses the most remarkable ability to create protagonists that act as a reflection to us. Her beautiful story gives new meaning to the phrase ‘character-driven’. Beautiful World, Where Are You focuses on fleshed-out characters rather than a detailed, well-built plot. In fact, the book has a character-driven plot. That is, the story is driven by emotion as opposed to a high concept plot.
Moreover, I’m not putting Rooney (completely) on a pedestal, but I really haven’t come across another writer who communicates trivial human tendencies so accurately and effortlessly, who blends fiction with social commentary and philosophy so seamlessly, who writes sex through conversation more so than action, and who creates characters that I can see myself in, so much so that it feels personal. She truly is a master of the small intimate moments that bring change in a relationship. I fully admire her for that and also for the honesty to which she has written about sex and desire.
All of this is to say Sally Rooney has won me with Beautiful World, Where Are You.
3.4. What I Disliked Most About ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’?
The only thing I disliked about Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You was that the letters of the main characters felt too long to me. It was basically due to the fact that I was too infused in the character development that some of the protagonists’ analyses of present time went over my head. I’ll definitely re-read this book with more attention, and fill the pages with my scribbles so as to avoid missing anything again.
I also disliked the character of Felix and I’m not going to tell you why. You’ve to find it by yourself. Let me be clear that there isn’t any fault in his character development.
3.5. ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’: Characters’ Analysis
While reading Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You, I felt so engaged with an ensemble of characters, and also genuinely devastated by their actions. But at the same time I was moved by their musings and tirades. The bond between these characters, the relationships they form, the friendship, the romance are all what’s beautiful about the world!
Beautiful World, Where Are You portrays four major characters: Alice, Eileen, Felix, and Simon. Let’s quickly overview them!
- Alice is a famous writer deeply struggling with the spotlight and weight of expectations that have come with her rising fame (much like Rooney herself). She has already made weaves with her first two books.
- Eileen is working at a literary magazine. She is often presented with opportunities to further her career or her relationships. But we don’t find her willing to embrace these chances since she is afraid of failure and change.
- Felix is doing a mundane job in a warehouse and exploring his bisexuality too.
- Simon is set in his faith and religious beliefs, while holding a career in politics. (He is indeed one of my favorite characters!)
Both Felix and Simon have less character development as compared to Alice and Eileen. Still they’re equally important to the story. Rooney shows us how these characters are constantly inundated, with anxieties and fear over the state of the world we live in. She gives us an insight to the lives of these characters through epistolary chapters that are raw and real between two friends, Alice and Eileen. As they dive deep into their own thoughts on various issues,—like mental health, religion, faith, class and sex, etc.—we learn so much about them.
What I liked Most About Characters in Sally Rooney’s ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’?
The characters in Beautiful World, Where Are You aren’t lost to their relationships. Instead, they remain distinct— self-conscious, restless, doubtful—in an uneasy orbit. I really found the dialogues and social scenes so believable; taut, often awkward. Though the book has an intimate focus, Rooney pans out to situate her characters very much in contemporary Ireland: how class and religion shape the lives of young people.
Rooney has an original voice and knows how to perfectly capture our contemporary experiences. She has depicted messy and imperfect characters, which I resonate with as I’m also a messy and imperfect person. Also, while reading the book, I couldn’t help but think if Alice was a cypher for Sally Rooney throughout the story. It’s quite hard to ignore the similarities between the two.
In a nutshell, I loved the story of Beautiful World, Where Are You. I loved its characters, its ending and the connection to the current pandemic. In fact, I loved the whole experience. I highly recommend this book, and I hope if you read it, it will spark the same types of feelings for you.
Happy Reading folks!
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