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Beautiful World, Where Are You

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Beautiful World, Where Are You is a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends. 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 Beautiful World, Where Are You is a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends. 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?


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Beautiful World, Where Are You is a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends. 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 Beautiful World, Where Are You is a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends. 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?

30 review for Beautiful World, Where Are You

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    I don't know what it is. All of you scratching your heads about the success of this book and Normal People... I get it. I was actually somewhat irritated by Beautiful World, Where Are You. The characters were annoying, often outright obnoxious, deeply pretentious in their philosophical musings... kinda like, as I said in my review of NP, "John Green for adults." And yet... I found them weirdly fascinating. "Like" is not the word I would use for this book, but I was very interested in it. I wallowe I don't know what it is. All of you scratching your heads about the success of this book and Normal People... I get it. I was actually somewhat irritated by Beautiful World, Where Are You. The characters were annoying, often outright obnoxious, deeply pretentious in their philosophical musings... kinda like, as I said in my review of NP, "John Green for adults." And yet... I found them weirdly fascinating. "Like" is not the word I would use for this book, but I was very interested in it. I wallowed in the characters' extremely depressing personalities, cringed at every awkward conversation (and there were, indeed, many), and cared whether the two love stories would work out. The story is about four people in their late twenties/early thirties having, navigating and talking about sex and relationships. Throw in some philosophical discussions and you basically have the plot of the whole book. But something about this author's writing really gets under my skin and plays on my anxiety. Something in the awkwardness, the things left unsaid, the conversations not had and the people unwilling to open up and risk getting hurt. And the people willing to. I read with this hard lump in the back of my throat. Don't ask me to explain why I was so into a book where the characters nod, blink, smile faintly, stare in silence and exchange glances multiple times on a page. I have no explanation. But if Rooney's growing popularity is anything to go by, I can't be the only weirdo out there who falls for this crap.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jack Edwards

    A mature departure from her previous work, BWWAY is exactly the novel we need right now from one of the world's most promising and impressive authors. Rooney's characteristic style glimmers amongst fascinating conversations (sans quotation marks) about climate anxiety, class-consciousness, and language. Ultimately, though, it's personal relationships, communication, love, and sex that the characters must navigate, as they desperately try to identify beauty in their everyday encounters. Alice is A mature departure from her previous work, BWWAY is exactly the novel we need right now from one of the world's most promising and impressive authors. Rooney's characteristic style glimmers amongst fascinating conversations (sans quotation marks) about climate anxiety, class-consciousness, and language. Ultimately, though, it's personal relationships, communication, love, and sex that the characters must navigate, as they desperately try to identify beauty in their everyday encounters. Alice is a successful young novelist, which allows Rooney to discuss her own space in the landscape of contemporary novel-writing. Are books about sex and relationships really just unimportant, privileged, inane frivolity? Or has the past year of lockdown and isolation made us realise that, actually, communication with the people we love is integral to our daily lives, and worth exploring in literature? This book is testament to the latter. BWWAY is Rooney's most natural integration of profound, intellectual, and elevated conversations amidst the dazzling ordinariness of her flawed, imperfect protagonists, and the exquisite precision of detail in this book is truly masterful. It's believable, perceptive, and a treasure of a book. Possibly her best yet. Watch my full reading vlog here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEUAA... [Thank you to Faber for my advanced copy of this book -- all opinions 100% my own]

  3. 5 out of 5

    emma

    as if i needed more reasons to find this book completely perfect: free palestine ----------------- the first time i read this, i finished it in a sitting. the second time, i savored every word. review to come / 5 stars / more if i could ----------------- i promise i resisted rereading for as long as i could. ----------------- happy release day to the perfect book ----------------- sally rooney is the only person alive who can take me out of a reading slump and put me back in one day. review to come / 5 sta as if i needed more reasons to find this book completely perfect: free palestine ----------------- the first time i read this, i finished it in a sitting. the second time, i savored every word. review to come / 5 stars / more if i could ----------------- i promise i resisted rereading for as long as i could. ----------------- happy release day to the perfect book ----------------- sally rooney is the only person alive who can take me out of a reading slump and put me back in one day. review to come / 5 stars ----------------- currently-reading updates depressed and hungover. this book is going to eat me for breakfast. ----------------- tbr review not to be dramatic but this book's announcement is currently the most exciting thing in the world to me update 4/13: COVERCOVERCOVER update 9/4: thank you, book of the month, BECAUSE MY COPY IS HERE!!! IT'S HERE!!! IT'S HAPPENING!!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Jenkins Reid

    She’s back! In Beautiful World, Where Are You we follow Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon through the ups and downs of life including their friendships and relationships with each other. Rooney grapples with many questions in her newest novel, from the various definitions of success to how one finds hope in an oftentimes hopeless world, all with her trademark emotional and thoughtful prose. If you loved her others, you will love this one, too. It’s pure Sally Rooney.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sahil Javed

    Beautiful World, Where Are You opens with Alice, a novelist, meeting Felix, a warehouse worker. She asks him if he wants to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break up and slips back into flirting with her childhood best friend, Simon. In this beautiful world, Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon navigate sex, friendship, relationships and the intricacies and complexities of the world they live in. “Maybe we’re just born to love and worry about the peo Beautiful World, Where Are You opens with Alice, a novelist, meeting Felix, a warehouse worker. She asks him if he wants to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break up and slips back into flirting with her childhood best friend, Simon. In this beautiful world, Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon navigate sex, friendship, relationships and the intricacies and complexities of the world they live in. “Maybe we’re just born to love and worry about the people we know, and to go on loving and worrying even when there are more important things we should be doing. And if that means the human species is going to die out, isn’t it in a way a nice reason to die out, the nicest reason you can imagine? Because when we should have been reorganising the distribution of the world’s resources and transitioning collectively to a sustainable economic model, we were worrying about sex and friendship instead. Because we loved each other too much and found each other too interesting. And I love that about humanity, and in fact it’s the very reason I root for us to survive – because we are so stupid about each other.” I knew before I even started reading this book that I was going to love it. Heck, when it was announced I knew I was going to love it. There was absolutely no doubt about that. I adored Normal People and Conversations with Friends so much, and upon rereading them, I fell in love with them all over again. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of this book and when I say that’s the best thing that’s happened to me this year, I don’t mean it lightly. I devoured this book. I read it within one sitting because I could not put it down and couldn’t go on without wanting to know what was going on in all of the character’s lives. I think Sally Rooney is incapable of writing a bad book and I’d go as far as to say that this is her best one yet, although I don’t know if that’s just the high I was feeling talking once I finished it. For fans of Sally Rooney’s earlier work, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a mix of both Normal People and Conversations with Friends whilst simultaneously feeling like a more mature piece of work. “At times I think of human relationships as something soft like sand or water, and by pouring them into particular vessels we give them shape. So a mother’s relationship with her daughter is poured into a vessel marked ‘mother and child’, and the relationship takes the contours of its container and is held inside there, for better or worse. Maybe some unhappy friends would have been perfectly contented as sisters, or married couples as parents and children, who knows. But what would it be like to form a relationship with no preordained shape of any kind? Just to put the water out and let it fall.” One of my favourite things about Rooney’s novels, and what I found especially fascinating about this one in particular, is her characters, the dynamics and interactions between them and other people, and the way they behave and are characterised. All of her characters in this one, Alice, Eileen, Felix, Simon, they all felt so real and authentic, even if that meant they were a little unlikeable at times (I’m looking at you Felix.) But is it a Sally Rooney if the characters don’t rub you the wrong way at times? Although I’m surprised to say that I actually didn’t dislike the characters at all, even if Felix got on my nerves at the beginning he became better throughout the novel. I felt such a connection to the characters, rooting for them as if they were my own friends. I wanted Alice and Felix’s relationship to succeed, just like I wanted Eileen and Simon to finally get together, with the same intensity I felt for Connell and Marianne in Normal People and Frances and Nick in Conversations with Friends. Like I loved these characters so much, individually and together, especially the friendships they have and the relationships they form. “Aren’t we unfortunate babies to be born when the world ended? After that there was no chance for the planet, and no chance for us. Or maybe it was just the end of one civilisation, ours, and at some time in the future another will take its place. In that case we are standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something.” Like I said before, it’s not a Sally Rooney novel if you don’t dislike the characters at times and although I actually really loved the characters, they still annoyed me at times, especially Eileen who just couldn’t admit that she wanted to be with Simon! It was so frustrating watching her push him away when she couldn’t admit that she wanted him. And it annoyed me. But I loved how much it annoyed me because I truly wanted these characters to be happy. Is that weird? It’s probably weird. Same with Alice and Felix, who had this weird sort of unhealthy relationship at times where they tried to hurt one another, more Felix than Alice, which ultimately came from a place of insecurity. But what I loved about this book is that everything is addressed, the characters, although at times miscommunication is prevalent in their interactions (would it be a Sally Rooney novel if it wasn’t?), they talk to one another and work through their issues, and the author manages to capture that awkwardness, vulnerability and layers of insecurity perfectly within those interactions between characters. But I’m really happy with where the characters ended up and that we actually got a pretty solid and defined ending which is pretty rare for Miss Rooney. Is she feeling okay? After I finished, I felt really happy and satisfied and was wondering what the hell was going on. “It’s still better to love something than nothing, better to love someone than no one, and I’m here, living in the world, not wishing for a moment that I wasn’t. Isn’t that in its own way a special gift, a blessing, something very important?” With every novel, even the ones you absolutely adore, there are going to be aspects that you didn’t particularly vibe with. For me, the emails between Alice and Eileen were a little pretentious and often a little too much. I struggled to concentrate on them, especially when they’d go into some deep intellectual rant but this was more at the beginning of the novel and they got easier to follow throughout. The one thing I absolutely loathed though was the introduction and inclusion of the pandemic and lockdown into the plot. I read to forget and I really don’t think it was necessary to include it at all. I understand Rooney’s novels do contain references and allusions to things that have happened in the real world but they are subtle and not in your face. This felt so intrusive and it felt too jarring and took me out of the story. Also, I know that Sally Rooney had been working on this book since 2018 so I absolutely know that the inclusion of the lockdown was just worked into the plot for whatever bizarre reason. “Eileen put her arm around Alice’s shoulders. If you weren’t my friend I wouldn’t know who I was, she said. Alice rested her face in Eileen’s arm, closing her eyes. No, she agreed. I wouldn’t know who I was either. And actually for a while I didn’t. Eileen looked down at Alice’s small blonde head, nestled on the sleeve of her sweatshirt. Neither did I, she said.” Another glorious thing about this novel, that wasn’t as much of a present topic in Normal People or Conversations with Friends, despite the queer characters in the latter, is the frank and honest conversations about sexuality. Felix is bisexual, or pansexual? He states that gender doesn’t really matter to him. And Alice is bisexual. And the conversations that they have with one another about this were really refreshing to read about, exploring biphobia, and experiences of falling in love that have nothing to do with gender. And Alice’s explorations of the meaning of sex and sexuality in her emails to Eileen were also very interesting to read and its what made this book even better for me. “I was tired, it was late, I was sitting half-asleep in the back of a taxi, remembering strangely that where I go, you are with me, and so is he, and that as long as you both live the world will be beautiful to me.” Overall, Beautiful World, Where Are You is truly a beautiful work of art. I would go as far as to say that it is Sally Rooney’s book yet. I need her to keep writing books, because I just can’t get enough. I love the characters she creates and I love watching them interact and love and hurt and grow and prosper and succeed and thrive. The experience of reading this was really enjoyable and I wish I could erase my memory so that I could read it all over again for the first time. sally rooney has a new book coming out? i can't wait to love and hate these characters all at the same time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Dacus

    well she’s done it again, I think it’s her best

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    5/5 but you all knew that as soon as i opened the cover

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    reviewed this in a twitter thread so i'm transplanting that here the tea? i think it’s good. i think sally has managed to ‘mature’ her writing very successfully. also, sally has jokes! a good alternative title would be Sally Rooney’s Surprisingly Down to Earth and Very Funny. fucking hell is it bloated however, like a corpse pulled from a river. at 337 pages, rooney’s style is absolutely max’d out and her ‘solid blocks of text’ approach to prose feels like an absolute punishment in some sections. t reviewed this in a twitter thread so i'm transplanting that here the tea? i think it’s good. i think sally has managed to ‘mature’ her writing very successfully. also, sally has jokes! a good alternative title would be Sally Rooney’s Surprisingly Down to Earth and Very Funny. fucking hell is it bloated however, like a corpse pulled from a river. at 337 pages, rooney’s style is absolutely max’d out and her ‘solid blocks of text’ approach to prose feels like an absolute punishment in some sections. the whole Sally-masquerading-as-Alice stuff is immensely trite and far too cringe for me. like, we get it sally, your life is terrible but you’re also a millionaire so maybe read the room? yet the relationship between Alice and Eileen is her strongest yet. and it’s how we slowly discover more about their lives and how everything slowly unfolds that the novel really wins me over. obviously it isnt normal people, and i applaud her writing a novel that just SO ISN’T normal people lmao never however have i been so sure that a novel will absolutely win over critics but may die in the hands of the readers. i will say i am one of the few voices in my extended group who will outwardly say that i think it is good. which is strange, especially for me. it is a rough beast. but i’m looking forward to revisiting it relatively soon.

  9. 5 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘As long as you both live the world will be beautiful to me.’ The release of Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You is about to be a literary event for 2021. Not only with many people clamoring for more Rooney, but for the discussions this novel is bound to spark. Taking its title from a Friedrich Schiller poem, the book follows four characters—Alice, Eileen, Felix and Simon—as they muddle their way through their late 20s/early 30s looking for beauty in life while inflicting themselves upo ‘As long as you both live the world will be beautiful to me.’ The release of Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You is about to be a literary event for 2021. Not only with many people clamoring for more Rooney, but for the discussions this novel is bound to spark. Taking its title from a Friedrich Schiller poem, the book follows four characters—Alice, Eileen, Felix and Simon—as they muddle their way through their late 20s/early 30s looking for beauty in life while inflicting themselves upon each other. This is a novel of discourse created through imperfect arguments and opinions by flawed characters because the world is imperfect and people are flawed. It is her most ponderous yet with will-they-won’t-they relationship tension that serves less as a plot device and, ultimately, more as an opportunity for discourse on society, gender, power, and the timeless struggle for meaning in life all while Rooney gives a passionate plea to live with forgiveness, understanding and love. ‘What is these things just rise and recede naturally, like tides, while the meaning of life remains the same always—just to live and be with other people?’ Rooney tends to garner strong opinions about her works which have also crossed into criticism of the author herself and the state of modern literature as we know it. There have been frequent articles following her books declaring her the harbinger of the decline of the English novel, usually also citing Zadie Smith, something that tends to occur when an author finds a way to write literary works that are also very popular. Love her or hate her, Rooney is a major figure in the modern literary scene which, I feel, is something that benefits from inclusion over gatekeeping. ‘A perfect example of o]ur shallow and self-congratulatory ‘book culture,’ Alice writes late in the novel, ‘in which non-readers are shunned as morally and intellectually inferior, and the more books you read, the smarter and better you are than everyone else.’ I think this could extend to ‘types’ or readers, and something I think is important, particularly in Librarianship, is to acknowledge that not everyone reads for the same reason and not all books are written for the same purposes. Rooney is able to write literary books that appeal to those drawn into volatile relationship drama and use these relationships as a vessel to examine a vast array of socio-political, interpersonal and mental health issues. And she does so quite successfully. In BWWY, Rooney seems to address many of her critics head on, cleverly voiced through her two protagonists, Alice and Eileen. Though it is not as simple as them being mouth-pieces for the author and an early statement from Alice, a popular novelist with a circle of harsh critics that seem to have been emboldened to dislike her due to early, glowing reviews about her books (sound familiar?) reminds us not to make the intentional fallacy and assume all statements are 100% the Author. Depiction not necessarily being endorsement and all that discourse. Yet it still feels pointed at the older [white male] critics when Eileen theorizes ‘remembering is weaker than experiencing…middle-aged people always think their thoughts and feelings are more important than those of young people.’ Many of the arguments put forth by Alice tend to come across as defensive, and says modern fiction suppresses real life because she believes they think ‘to put the fact of that poverty, that misery, side by side with the ‘main characters’ of a novel, would be deemed either tasteless or simply artistically unsuccessful,’ it feels like ignoring a wealth of fiction that already exist exploring themes of poverty and the political quite successfully. This may serve, however, as an example of the ‘moral superiority’ Felix accuses her of having (women tend to face far more criticisms for their behavior than the men here), which becomes a major theme in the novel. Or I’m being generous, but I predict this passage will be frequently used in many critics assessment of the book). What drives this novel is the dialoguing that occurs, through which Rooney tosses up a lot of conflicting philosophizing and disagreement between characters and let’s them hash it out. This works to the novels favor, and Rooney is a master at dialogue that feels real, complete with humor and sharp jabs such as when Elieen texts Simon ‘Why do men over 30 text like they’re updating a LinkedIn profile?’ Half of the novel is epistolary with Alice and Eileen exchanging emails that follow the rotating narratives about them in their separate worlds where Rooney gives herself the opportunity to have them discuss at length everything from capitalism and climate crisis to the downfall of the Late Bronze Age. It’s a fun technique and may seem heavy handed but one only need to read the emails of any English major to their best friend to see, oh yea, we really do that (I apologize to anyone who has ever had an email from me). It might be nitpicking, but there isn't much attempt to at crafting two different voices between Alice and Eileen here. 'In my deepest essence I am just an artefact of our culture, just a little bubble winking at the brim of our civilization.' The authorial voice is interesting in this regard, being highly textured and moving from a rather distant third-person account that rarely enters the characters minds and lets us simply watch, to highly personal emails. She excels at pacing, speeding up or slowing down to highlight details like a finely tuned machine programmed for maximum plot tension and exposition revelation. Occasionally the 3rd POV seems intentionally elusive, like Alice telling Felix ‘about a friend named Eileen’ long after we know who Eileen is which serves to remind us of the distance between lives even among friends. The distance of the narration allows us only to observe, never be in their minds, furthering the theme that asks us why we judge people without actually really knowing them inside. The characters may be frustrating, but they are their own people with private lives and 'you'll only drive yourself crazy trying to make them act the way you want.' Sections that narrate what Felix is doing alongside what Alice is doing often are used to show the contrast between social classes, with Simon working long hours warehouse while Alice drinks tea and checks emails. It almost mocks the importance artists place on art as we know Alice is a millionaire and Simon is in debt, something Rooney furthers when she says famous authors are less concerned with life and more ‘obsessed with whether their latest book will be reviewed in The New York Times.’ Rooney has fire in this book and lots of blows tend to land on the publishing industry and against idolization culture. ‘Like Alice in her moral philosophy, she was caught between two positions. Maybe everyone was, in everything that mattered.’ In a recent essay, Brandon Taylor talks about moral fiction as something that ‘is not ideologically precious or rigid—it simply portrays the complexities of what it is to move through the world with that ever-evoked ethic of the online: nuance.’ Nuance abounds here and no topic walks away unscathed. Arguments ensue and Rooney has created a space to explore multiple angles of topics without having to pass some authorial judgement on the opinions, leaving the reader to decide for themselves. In a discussion on Marxism, one character opines that identity is merely the latest fashion after another says being working class isn’t a fashion statement but an identity (reminding Eileen of the irony she drives her parents BMW calling herself a Marxist). There are arguments over if beauty can exist in a cosmetic world, if it is ethical for Simon at 30 to date women 10 years his junior (recalling the relationship and power-dynamics of sex from Conversations with Friends). Taylor warns against literature flattening morals to a ‘Twitterfied set of ethics’ and the way this book will likely raise eyebrows over ideas as a big part of its theme. Central to this book is the notion of moral superiority, something that seems prevalent in our online culture. ‘We hate people for making mistakes so much more than we love them for doing good,’ Alice writes, ‘that the easiest way to live is to do nothing, say nothing, and love no one.’ What initially feels like a tired complaint about ‘cancel culture’ turns into something much more interesting about passing judgement on others, particularly as Alice is the one who faces most accusations of acting morally superior to others. By allowing the reader to make up their mind about the characters, Rooney asks us what leg we have to stand on in judging them. ‘What if its all of us,’ Alice asks when considering who has done harm to others. There is a certain Catholic aspect to her novels, such as Simon being the only church going member of the book but he is set up as if he were a Dostoevsky villain grooming Eileen since she was 15 (much like Luzhin in Crime and Punishment he uses being a hip political figure and his vast bank account as a means to have sexual access to many young women, not unlike Nick in Conversation using his youth-passing good looks to have an affair with a University student). While ideas of purity and Catholic guilt kept Connell from sexually pleasing Marianne in a rough way as she wished in Normal People, here Rooney asks if we have created a new set of moral purity demands through online culture that has taken away our means for forgiveness and separates people instead of community building. This aspect of the novel is sure to spark debate, especially when many of the examples used tend to be sexual. This all leads to an examination of what it means from the Biblical story of the sinner woman washing Jesus’ feet as a message of ultimate forgiveness. Characters discuss how, as atheists, why do they place so much emphasis on there being no divine morality and then still demand a moral purity from others. Rooney also discusses this in the way we treat celebrities, how people will pass judgement on an author without ever knowing them, confusing ‘someone’s name they know with someone they know.’ While I’ve seen this same Biblical passage weaponized in US religious culture to protect the powerful from consequences, I see what Rooney is getting at and while it is imperfect, so is life. Also perhaps this is a depiction of the ‘hot take culture’ of social media? Though I would prefer the focus to be on those who have been harmed rather than worrying about the feelings of those who harm, I suppose her point is that everyone has complex emotions. A common complaint of her books is that the characters are unlikable, though I feel like liking them is not the purpose but rather understanding how they self-justify and seeing the way their actions affect one another. We are all searching for a beautiful world. But can we even know what beauty means in a world that substitutes the term for cosmetics, as Eileen points out? Have we filled the world with ugly faux meaning, supplanting purpose with marketing? Has the use of plastic distorted what we can even possibly understand about beauty (Eileen again), and in a capitalist world that only values profit how much can individual purpose even matter. If Eileen doesn't make as much money as Alice or her sister, is her job less meaningful? This is the landscape across which the friends navigate their relationship woes on their quest for a beautiful world. Rooney pitches that, perhaps, it's about being thankful for what we have, and content with the love we find. ‘As life in its ordinariness and even ugly vulgarity imposed itself everywhere around them...were they somehow invulnerable to, untouched by, vulgarity and ugliness, glancing for a moment into something deeper, something concealed beneath the surface of life, not un-reality but a hidden reality: the presence at all times, in all places, of a beautiful world?’ If you haven't noticed, this book is sort of messy in the most glorious way possible. It is not plot driven and sort of slowly moves around from idea to idea and does so successfully. It feels a bit bloated at times and perhaps this is a combination of a publisher ask for a larger page count to justify a $28 hardcover and Rooney having proven herself enough that an editor isn’t going to cut content (just spitballing here), but this isn’t a detriment although it doesn’t feel as tight as her previous books. In fact, I sort of prefer it this way and each scene and idea is given room to breath and spiral around with the others, returning from time to time to solidify her points. The novel ultimately becomes a bit overly a will-they, won’t-they, but Rooney reminds us this isn’t the point. ‘Do the protagonists break up or stay together? In this world, what does it matter?’ Alice writes, ‘we can care…if and only if we have successfully forgotten about all the things more important than that, i.e. everything.’ The friendship plot was more interesting to me than the coupling, but I see the purpose of its draw. Rooney has matured as an author and has taken on a bold and daunting task of incorporating all her themes into a big novel on social relations using her four characters as a microcosm and, for the most part, pulls it off. After more people read this I'd like to come back and talk about more specific aspects, but for now, enjoy this book. I suspect Beautiful World, Where Are You?' will be the subject of many articles coming from many strongly held beliefs, and that is exactly what Rooney has set out to do. 3.5/5 'It's still better to love something than nothing, better to love someone than no one, and I'm here, living in the world, not wishing for a moment that i wasn't.'

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    People have feelings about Sally Rooney—strong feelings—in a way they just don’t about other writers. The oversaturation of positive attention itself generates negative responses, ranging from the mildly baffled ‘why the hype?’ to the exasperated ‘can I just stop hearing about Sally Rooney for five seconds!’. For me, Conversations with Friends was good, but not brilliant. Normal People I loved (any novel that can make me ugly cry has earned its 5 stars). The TV adaptation of Normal People I super People have feelings about Sally Rooney—strong feelings—in a way they just don’t about other writers. The oversaturation of positive attention itself generates negative responses, ranging from the mildly baffled ‘why the hype?’ to the exasperated ‘can I just stop hearing about Sally Rooney for five seconds!’. For me, Conversations with Friends was good, but not brilliant. Normal People I loved (any novel that can make me ugly cry has earned its 5 stars). The TV adaptation of Normal People I super loved, and Rooney deserves due credit for that too. This is a long-winded way of saying that in the polarised world of Rooney-commentary, I’m not really on either team. I wasn’t predisposed to feel any kind of way about Beautiful World, Where Are You. As it turns out, I didn’t care for this one much, but I’m almost loath to criticise because of how personal Rooney gets here—about the dissociative effect of sudden fame, the spurious value of writing about her own life: ‘If novelists wrote honestly about their own lives, no one would read novels—and quite rightly! Maybe then we would finally have to confront how wrong, how deeply philosophically wrong, the current system of literary production really is—how it takes writers away from normal life, shuts the door behind them, and tells them again and again how special they are and how important their opinions must be.’ Rooney is now three novels deep in what appears to be a project to update the Austen-style marriage plot for the 21st century. Her stories don’t hinge on the actual legal institution of marriage, but rather the ‘love match’ that was Austen’s staple. I think it’s part of Rooney’s enigma that she manages to be wildly popular for doing something so seemingly unfashionable. For such stories to work, you need exemplary characterisation. As a reader, you want to be invested in the outcome and for that the characters have to seem real. It’s fine for them to be unlikeable; it’s a problem when they are unconvincing and uninteresting, and that was my main issue with BWWAY. Three separate narrators—a third person objective POV; Alice (via emails); and Eileen (also via emails)—all write with the same hyper-observant, analytical, detail-oriented style. The characters all speak in the same faux-profound, excessively candid way, divulging their deepest truths to near strangers, while also being completely inept about expressing their romantic feelings (as necessary to defer the plot’s resolution). None of it rings true. There are moments of brilliance in the writing. I particularly liked a cross-cutting or ‘split screen’ effect employed by Rooney to narrate two separate strands of action happening concurrently. But without that all-important connection to the characters, I was never fully drawn in. Of the three, this is the Rooney novel I've enjoyed the least.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Let me start this review by saying that I think Sally Rooney is an excellent writer on the sentence level. Every word moves the plot forward or illustrates a meaningful detail about her characters. Her dialogue in particular is extraordinary. Even though I had mixed feelings about Conversations with Friends and kinda detested Normal People , I still read this novel because I remembered how immersed I felt in her past characters’ conversations with one another. For example, in Beautiful Wo Let me start this review by saying that I think Sally Rooney is an excellent writer on the sentence level. Every word moves the plot forward or illustrates a meaningful detail about her characters. Her dialogue in particular is extraordinary. Even though I had mixed feelings about Conversations with Friends and kinda detested Normal People , I still read this novel because I remembered how immersed I felt in her past characters’ conversations with one another. For example, in Beautiful World, Where Are You there’s one scene in which Eileen sees Simon at a wedding and the narrative does this montage-esque time lapse thing where it recounts a significant portion of Eileen and Simon’s coming-of-age with one another within the span of half a chapter or so. This section of the novel literally took my breath away, like I literally paused at the end of the chapter and thought to myself “wow, she did that.” That being said, I still significantly disliked this novel, especially its latter half. For the first 50% I thought Beautiful World, Where Are You might serve as my first higher-than-three-star Sally Rooney novel, then many elements of the book took a nosedive. Here are the top three features of this book that soured it for me. 1. A lack of depth in the characters’ motivations and desires. For example, at one point Eileen writes to Alice that she feels that her life would have been significantly better if she had married Simon earlier on. Eileen also pushes and pulls Simon away from her throughout the novel. However, there’s no deeper exploration of why Eileen feels so incomplete and wretched without Simon nor is there any sincere introspection about why she treats him the way she does. I feel like because Rooney is such a talented writer, she makes Eileen and the other characters’ angst about their situations so interesting and dynamic. However, interesting and dynamic angst is not the same thing as angst that is actually processed or learned from. There’s a big moment at the end of the novel with all four characters that kinda functions as this major catharsis followed by a denouement, though I didn’t observe any increased self-awareness there either. 2. Rooney focuses on the romantic dynamics between Eileen and Simon and Alice and Felix at the expense of more robust character development. While Rooney, again, writes immersive conversations and scenes between these characters and their love interests, the focus on the romantic elements detracted from more nuanced growth. Eileen faces a complicated dynamic with her sister and their parents, while Alice experienced psychiatric hospitalization and continues to face mental health issues. Instead of developing these aspects of Eileen and Alice, Rooney throws them into situations with Simon and Felix over and over with no reprieve. Even when Eileen and Alice finally reunite in person, Simon and Felix are present and take up space that could have been spent fleshing out the women’s friendship. The ending of the novel thus felt cheapened given the lack of actual growth on any of the characters’ behalf. 3. Okay, what the heck purpose did Felix serve in this novel? Felix is literally an awful, emotionally volatile man and there’s no accountability for his actions nor a basic recognition of his garbage behaviors? He watches pornography that’s degrading to women, is outright mean to Alice on multiple occasions, is cruel to Eileen about her friendship with Alice, tries to take advantage of Simon when Simon experiences a moment of emotional fragility, and avoids communicating with his brother like any basic human decent being would after their mom dies. The worst part about all of this is that the novel doesn’t even reprimand Felix for these behaviors nor does it explore the root of his actions in an even halfhearted-way, it just lets Felix act horrible and end up relatively unscathed. If you read this book and think that the way Felix treats people is in any way okay, please read about healthy relationship behaviors because I promise that you do not deserve to be treated like how Felix treats essentially everyone in this novel. Despite all these complaints, there’s a small chance I may read Rooney’s next novel anyway just because of the quality of her writing. The novel poses an interesting overarching thematic question of whether it’s okay to focus on friendships and relationships when the world is collapsing, however, I wish that the characters in this novel were actually better developed to allow for a more robust exploration of that question. I’ll end this review by saying that there are several books written by women of color about women of color who actually grow and heal in messy yet beautiful ways, and it’s oppressive that these books don’t receive as high ratings or as many ratings/reviews as Sally Rooney’s books. You can find examples on my Goodreads shelf, though I’ll recommend a few here: You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat, A World Between by Emily Hashimoto, and When We Were Infinite by Kelly Loy Gilbert.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Update: Wow!!! Rooney won’t ‘allow’ this novel - her 3rd to be translated in Hebrew because she supports a cultural boycott in Israel. Her past two books ‘were’ translated in Hebrew. A SAD DISAPPOINTING CHOICE IMO!!! I’m Jewish. — Antisemitism has been on the rise in recent years — Learning this information- has a disturbing divide aspect that I feel is sooooo unnecessary- This is a BOOK — a literary contemporary novel. The parts of this novel that I wasn’t enthralled with — comes from the same c Update: Wow!!! Rooney won’t ‘allow’ this novel - her 3rd to be translated in Hebrew because she supports a cultural boycott in Israel. Her past two books ‘were’ translated in Hebrew. A SAD DISAPPOINTING CHOICE IMO!!! I’m Jewish. — Antisemitism has been on the rise in recent years — Learning this information- has a disturbing divide aspect that I feel is sooooo unnecessary- This is a BOOK — a literary contemporary novel. The parts of this novel that I wasn’t enthralled with — comes from the same core place that doesn’t enthralled me to learn this information about Rooney. She has the right - I’m just NOT A FAN OF HER STAND! Readable … ….but disappointing. For me, I felt this novel was trite, uninspiring, and lacking in depth of the very topic which was at the heart of the matter. 2.5 - it’s a stretch for me to give it three stars… but I’m still thinking about it and there are things I’d like to discuss with others — so three stars it is.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    “Purposeful awkwardness” is how I can describe this book in just two words. I don’t know whether that goes along with supposedly being a voice of an entire generation to which I belong — but awkwardness permeates everything, and my reactions fluctuated between boredom, periodic cringing and occasional spark of recognition and relatability — which unfortunately ended up buried under the awkward bits much too often. Oh, and before I forget in the rants to come — dear writers, please oh please do no “Purposeful awkwardness” is how I can describe this book in just two words. I don’t know whether that goes along with supposedly being a voice of an entire generation to which I belong — but awkwardness permeates everything, and my reactions fluctuated between boredom, periodic cringing and occasional spark of recognition and relatability — which unfortunately ended up buried under the awkward bits much too often. Oh, and before I forget in the rants to come — dear writers, please oh please do not skip dialogue tags in your writing. Why??? It’s not fresh or daring but just irritating, and I know you know how to use them. It’s a story about nothing much, really. It follows four people who make up two eventual couples - Alice and Felix and on the other side of the country Eileen and Simon. There are multitudes of details of their daily routines, either pointlessly awkward or perhaps profound (depending on the point of view, I suppose) conversations - verbal and text messages - and quite a few pages of detailed, mechanistic and honestly quite boring and exceedingly awkward almost-voyeristic sex. And every other chapter there is a complete tone shift from that to the flourishing long emails between Eileen and Alice about more profound things in life, at times sophisticated and at times naive and yet painfully earnest and quite a bit reminiscent of those wine-fueled intellectual conversations in college in which truthseeking was stubbornly pursued. I can read stories about nothing much. But what make me cringe and shrug in frustrated boredom was the language of the bulk of the book, clearly done intentionally as those interlude emails show a completely different and much more engaging style. But the majority of the book is written basically like a screenplay, with step-by-step instructions. What’s with all these details? Is it an attempt at distancing the reader and have them figure things out on their own? Is it a gimmick that for some reason sounded interesting at one point? Is it compassion for the person eventually adapting this to the big or small screen? I suspect the latter, given that this will probably join the queue of Rooney adaptations. Seriously, check this out: “He asked her what she wanted to drink and then went to the bar to order. The waitress asked how he was getting on, and he answered: Good yeah, yourself? He ordered a vodka tonic and a pint of lager. Rather than carrying the bottle of tonic back to the table, he emptied it into the glass with a quick and practised movement of his wrist. The woman at the table tapped her fingers on a beermat, waiting. Her outward attitude had become more alert and lively since the man had entered the room. She looked outside now at the sunset as if it were of interest to her, though she hadn’t paid any attention to it before. When the man returned and put the drinks down, a drop of lager spilled over and she watched its rapid progress down the side of his glass.” Imagination rests here as it has nothing to do. Everything is spelled out. Everything. I mean, here’s the passage that should have been “she found her keys and opened the door”: “She walked lightly up the path and searched in her handbag for the house keys. The noise of the keys was audible somewhere inside the bag but she didn’t seem to be able to find them. He stood there not saying anything. She apologised for the delay and switched on the torch function on her phone, lighting the interior of her bag and casting a cold grey light on the front steps of the house also. He had his hands in his pockets. Got them, she said. Then she unlocked the door.” Tired reading the details yet? Oh dear, now imagine the entire book like this: “At twenty past twelve on a Wednesday afternoon, a woman sat behind a desk in a shared office in Dublin city centre, scrolling through a text document. She had very dark hair, swept back loosely into a tortoiseshell clasp, and she was wearing a grey sweater tucked into black cigarette trousers. Using the soft greasy roller on her computer mouse she skimmed over the document, eyes flicking back and forth across narrow columns of text, and occasionally she stopped, clicked, and inserted or deleted characters. Most frequently she was inserting two full stops into the name ‘WH Auden’, in order to standardise its appearance as ‘W.H. Auden’. When she reached the end of the document, she opened a search command, selected the Match Case option and searched: ‘WH’. No matches appeared.” And here is Sally Rooney for some reason explaining to Millenials how to use Google Maps: “He typed his address into the search bar without looking up. Yeah, he said. They have me on really random shifts this week. He handed her back the phone to show her the address: 16 Ocean Rise. The screen displayed a network of white streets on a background of grey, beside a blue area representing the sea.” And that is just the beginning of the book. This goes on for hundreds of pages until by the end you feel mostly desensitized — but for me that did not happen soon enough to translate into enjoyment. Why oh why would you purposefully subject your readers to pointless description and monotonous step-by-step detailing of everything? More under spoiler tag: (view spoiler)[“Squinting at the screen of her phone, she tapped the icon of a social media app. The interface opened and displayed a loading symbol.” And that loading symbol is clearly very important for this story. Of course it needs page space. “After they hung up, she plugged a charging cable into her phone and switched off the bedside light. The artificial orange glow of urban light pollution permeated the thin curtains of her bedroom window. With her eyes still open, she touched herself for a minute and a half* , came noiselessly, and then turned over on her side to go to sleep.” *I’m glad it was *exactly* a minute and a half of masturbation, not a minute or two or three. “Did Felix find her answers interesting, or was he bored? Was he thinking about her, or about something else, someone else? And onstage, speaking about her books, was Alice thinking about him? Did he exist for her in that moment, and if so, in what way?” I don’t know, you tell me or at least show me — or I guess you can pose the questions to make the jobs of all the book clubs eventually discussing this story easier. (hide spoiler)] And then we have those email interludes between Alice and Eileen where we get a smattering on opinions and musings on consumerism, politics, sexuality, identity, capitalism, religion, beauty and meaning of life. They seem to be chapters in a longer essay interspersed among the banal scenes in the novel, contrasting with the surrounding chapters in a way that was becoming grating of distracting. “At times I think of human relationships as something soft like sand or water, and by pouring them into particular vessels we give them shape. So a mother’s relationship with her daughter is poured into a vessel marked ‘mother and child’, and the relationship takes the contours of its container and is held inside there, for better or worse. Maybe some unhappy friends would have been perfectly contented as sisters, or married couples as parents and children, who knows. But what would it be like to form a relationship with no preordained shape of any kind? Just to pour the water out and let it fall. I suppose it would take no shape, and run off in all directions.” ———— And then I came across this passage that made me think that Rooney is just deliberately f*cking with the readers: “Who can care, in short, what happens to the novel’s protagonists, when it’s happening in the context of the increasingly fast, increasingly brutal exploitation of a majority of the human species?” Ummm, Ms. Rooney? I do. I care. The world sucks and we are dooming the planet, but you put protagonists in a book and I care about their fictional lives. That’s my problem as a reader. I care despite the world we live in. ———— I don’t have much to say about the characters, even after pages and pages and pages. Alice and Felix perplexed and bored me since I have no idea what in him would be attractive to her, no why she would be content of engaging in humiliation that he seems to frustratingly dump all over her. I don’t get the overly monotonous and detailed sex scenes that were nothing but awkward — seriously, fade to black once to spare me the eye rolling! Awkward! Eileen and Simon were marginally less cringe-inducing (minus all those awkward detailed sex scenes, of course — because god forbid Rooney skips a detail anywhere!). But at least those two did not make me want to gauge my eyes out with a spoon. Except for this — “Can we? she asked. He said yes. They took their underwear off. I’ll get a condom, he said. She told him she was on the pill, and he seemed to hesitate” — because you know the guy is sleeping with another woman who’s sleeping with other people and chlamydia is not stoped by birth control pills. (view spoiler)[And in the end we get more of the same - “I don’t have a condom, he said. She told him it was okay. Then she added: As long as you’re not having unprotected sex with anyone else.” — but how about all that unprotected sex he’s already had??? (hide spoiler)] But their romantic struggles were hard to buy — Eileen and Simon clearly needed to be together after the first few pages, while Alice and Felix really had nothing keeping them together. They should not have had similar trajectories of push and pull and eventual happy ending — the symmetry of their love stories is unearned. “Maybe we’re just born to love and worry about the people we know, and to go on loving and worrying even when there are more important things we should be doing. And if that means the human species is going to die out, isn’t it in a way a nice reason to die out, the nicest reason you can imagine? Because when we should have been reorganising the distribution of the world’s resources and transitioning collectively to a sustainable economic model, we were worrying about sex and friendship instead. Because we loved each other too much and found each other too interesting. And I love that about humanity, and in fact it’s the very reason I root for us to survive—because we are so stupid about each other.” Eventually somewhere at the 2/3rds mark (the wedding scene) the writing style improves a bit, with detail overload lessening and some life breathed into the deadpan list-filled prose by finally allowing us into the characters heads instead of just observing their actions in minute details (or maybe it stayed the same but book Stockholm Syndrome had kicked in) — but although less cringeworthy, it did not leave me much time to forge any connections to anyone or anything in the book. Yes, there were moments where I felt that “aha!” connection, but only briefly and far too rarely. And even the sweet ending still felt banal and unmoving to me. And I was left with that vaguely dissatisfied feeling at the end. The feeling that I read something that did not strike a chord with me although it should have had. The irritation at the needless lack of dialogue tags. The weird pompousness of the emails sections do starting with the banality of mundane details. The lingering cringeness of voyeristically awkward sex scenes. The mostly uninteresting characters. The overload of philosophy that calls for alcohol-fueled student gathering. Meh. Left me mostly cold. 2 stars.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    I am well aware that the Irish writer Sally Rooney has legions of fans, although the hype for this novel feels rather overblown. This is one of those reviews that I am uncomfortable writing, I know many readers loved this, I just didn't connect with it. It's not that I hated it, it's more that I was indifferent, to the characters of the successful writer, Alice, her best friend, Eileen, warehouse packer, Felix and Simon, the relationships and interactions with each other. To me, they came across I am well aware that the Irish writer Sally Rooney has legions of fans, although the hype for this novel feels rather overblown. This is one of those reviews that I am uncomfortable writing, I know many readers loved this, I just didn't connect with it. It's not that I hated it, it's more that I was indifferent, to the characters of the successful writer, Alice, her best friend, Eileen, warehouse packer, Felix and Simon, the relationships and interactions with each other. To me, they came across as medicated, laboured and labouring, masquerading as real people, with little depth. I suspect my response to this novel comes from having read such exquisite and more impactful books recently, such as The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers. I would suggest that readers read other far more positive reviews before making the decision to read this, it may well be that I am just not the target audience for this novel.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Awareness There is an immersive observational skill Rooney has with her characters and their relationships. Coupled with her beautiful and unique writing style, Beautiful World, Where Are You is another captivating novel for fans of Sally Rooney. I often feel frustrated following her characters and their relationships, wondering why they don’t just say what they mean instead of making relationships more complicated. Why does the suppression of feelings, misguided or unintentional expression of fe Awareness There is an immersive observational skill Rooney has with her characters and their relationships. Coupled with her beautiful and unique writing style, Beautiful World, Where Are You is another captivating novel for fans of Sally Rooney. I often feel frustrated following her characters and their relationships, wondering why they don’t just say what they mean instead of making relationships more complicated. Why does the suppression of feelings, misguided or unintentional expression of feelings force relationships down a path that seems more and more difficult to address? Then I look at relationships in real life, and I think, boy oh boy, Sally Rooney has this to a tee. We don’t make perfect choices even with good intentions, and the old saying “no good turn goes unpunished” leaves us questioning where this beautiful world is? Alice is a successful author in our contemporary world, and we can imagine that this may be a surrogate for Sally Rooney herself. Alice and her best friend Eileen communicate openly and in-depth via email these days. This mechanism gives Rooney another device to deliver contemporary conversations to be observed from a distance. Alice is dating Felix, and their relationship is flawed, but they are still searching for how to connect better with each other, where desire and outcome are often far apart. Eileen’s other childhood friend is Simon, and they have unaddressed feelings about each other, and that friend or lover hurdle is often too high to jump. Their difficulty in expressing their feelings leads to a complicated and misunderstood relationship. Rooney has crafted another wonderful book that illustrates her development as an author and the development of her more mature characters as they look at issues affecting our society and the modern world – climate change and that pandemic make an appearance. Regardless of the complex and often damaging events and choices we make, is this not a beautiful world we live in? I received an extract from NetGalley for this book, and it wasn’t enough to warrant a serious review, in fact, any review – so there. Feeling totally manipulated, I purchased the book on publication day and read it in one sitting - very unusual for me. As with Normal People, I can see the divided opinion coming with this book, but I would recommend reading it if you are a Sally Rooney fan or neutral like me, but don’t if you’re not.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lisa of Troy

    Beautiful World, Where Are You focuses on two women, Alice and Eileen, who are best friends. They are both 29 and are still trying to find their way in the world, primarily by finding life fulfillment by engaging in dating relationships and pursuing conversations about politics (all the while not actually doing anything). Never reading a Sally Rooney book before, I saw all of the hype and had serious FOMO so I pre-ordered a copy. The beginning of the book was quite entertaining and filled with s Beautiful World, Where Are You focuses on two women, Alice and Eileen, who are best friends. They are both 29 and are still trying to find their way in the world, primarily by finding life fulfillment by engaging in dating relationships and pursuing conversations about politics (all the while not actually doing anything). Never reading a Sally Rooney book before, I saw all of the hype and had serious FOMO so I pre-ordered a copy. The beginning of the book was quite entertaining and filled with sharp, smart witty humor. However, it had more steamy scenes than erotica. For all of the progressive talk, the book only focused on two heterosexual relationships. What exactly did Alice see in Felix? What about him was so great? Rooney also tries to romanticize having unprotected activities, but HPV and The Clap don't wash off in the morning especially when the couple engaging in said activities are not in an exclusive relationship. Again, if you are going to put forth a book about forward thinking, then the actions should match the philosophy. Also, this book subscribed too readily to stereotypical gender roles with males being the providers, and the women being hysterical and overly emotional who largely don't get what they want because they won't articulate their needs. Beautiful World Where Are You does tackle some of the weightier issues in the world presently. With dating moving to the online world, there are now infinite choices, and how can the daters really know if they are in a committed relationship? Why do couples want to have more children with the pandemic uncertainty as well as the increasing pollution levels? There was one part of the book that confused me because Alice was complaining about how she is all alone in the world being a famous author and how she had no one to show her the way. In the last half of the book, Alice speaks about how she has all of these author friends. Now which is it? Overall, Beautiful World Where are You was an entertaining read. If you hate erotica or liberal ideals, you will want to steer clear.

  17. 5 out of 5

    banana

    how incredibly kinky. the world is decaying, our purpose is meaningless, lost, and inconsequential. most of our fleeting exsistence is spent questioning and assigning meaning to things we don't understand but fuck it!! i want a boyfriend. i want to get fucked whilst the world begins to rapidly rot around us. the hilarity of this book trying to grapple with such complex concepts while remaining incredibly vapid was almost, strangely, endearing. and to answer the question that the title poses, i t how incredibly kinky. the world is decaying, our purpose is meaningless, lost, and inconsequential. most of our fleeting exsistence is spent questioning and assigning meaning to things we don't understand but fuck it!! i want a boyfriend. i want to get fucked whilst the world begins to rapidly rot around us. the hilarity of this book trying to grapple with such complex concepts while remaining incredibly vapid was almost, strangely, endearing. and to answer the question that the title poses, i think the beautiful world is in us. in our love for eachother, in our passion, in our continuation of this strange, frustrating thing we call life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

    It's been a couple weeks since I finished reading this, and now that it's out in the world for everyone to read I figured it would be a good time to write up a full review. I think I've formed some thoughts on what I did and did not like about it and why I feel like it didn't live up to Rooney's other novels for me. The story probably sounds a lot like what you'd expect from Rooney. A group of young adults, in this case a bit older than her other protagonists (their late 20s/early 30s) live their It's been a couple weeks since I finished reading this, and now that it's out in the world for everyone to read I figured it would be a good time to write up a full review. I think I've formed some thoughts on what I did and did not like about it and why I feel like it didn't live up to Rooney's other novels for me. The story probably sounds a lot like what you'd expect from Rooney. A group of young adults, in this case a bit older than her other protagonists (their late 20s/early 30s) live their regular lives in modern Ireland. There is Alice, a successful author who recently suffered with some mental health issues and has moved out of Dublin for a time. Her best friend is Eileen who works at a literary magazine and feels a bit in Alice's shadow. Alice meets Felix on a dating app in her new town; he works in packaging goods in a warehouse for shipment. And Eileen converses often with Simon, a childhood friend who she may or may not have feelings for. All throughout the novel, the chapters go back and forth between narrative storytelling and email correspondences between Alice and Eileen. For me, the best parts were the emails and friendship that we got to learn about between Alice and Eileen. I really enjoyed learning about them through the way they write to one another. This also allowed Rooney to develop some deeper themes and ponder them in almost essay form, as the emails at time can read like little essays. She touches on modernism, capitalism, consumerism and waste, and living boldly in a world that seems to be falling apart. These are all themes that have been written about before, and though Sally does so quite poignantly, it didn't necessarily feel original or groundbreaking. My biggest issue, honestly, was how these characters felt to me. I try to go into any book with empathy and not judge characters beyond what we see about them on the page. However, I did not care about these characters at all. And that's not because I think they are unsympathetic people, but the particular phase of life and the way that they are written about by Rooney was not interesting or engaging to me whatsoever. I had no patience for their struggles and generally didn't find them very likeable. While this is also true of characters in other Rooney novels, in those instances I felt the writing was more immersive and the plots themselves were more page-turning. This book is the definition of plotless, which I'm okay with if the characters and writing are compelling; however, in this one I found nothing to grip me. I would have been more interested focusing on Alice only, her internal struggles, her wrestle with newfound fame, her mental health, etc. However, we only discover these things in contrast to Eileen and Felix, rather than feeling the interior life of Alice herself. I think that's what kept me from loving this book—I felt held at such a distance from what these characters were really feeling and going through because it felt like they were struggling to deal with it themselves. I am very curious to hear what everyone has to say about this. Don't think of me as a Rooney hater; I really did enjoy her first 2 novels and was highly anticipating it. I don't think it's a bad book, either, but it does make Rooney feel like a one-trick pony, and when it doesn't hit, it disappoints.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Susanne Strong

    Review to be posted on blog: https://books-are-a-girls-best-friend... What can I say?: Sally Rooney has something that I don’t believe that many other authors have and what is even more spectacular is that she can put it down on paper. She has a deep, innate understanding of life, love, friendships, and relationships, and that is intangible. “Beautiful World, Where Are You” is the story of life. People who interact with one another and who form relationships of one kind or another. Friends, perha Review to be posted on blog: https://books-are-a-girls-best-friend... What can I say?: Sally Rooney has something that I don’t believe that many other authors have and what is even more spectacular is that she can put it down on paper. She has a deep, innate understanding of life, love, friendships, and relationships, and that is intangible. “Beautiful World, Where Are You” is the story of life. People who interact with one another and who form relationships of one kind or another. Friends, perhaps lovers and who at times, are unable to communicate their thoughts and feelings properly, and because of that, their relationships suffer. Here we have Eileen and Alice, who are best friends, though they haven’t seen each other in years and communicate only via email. Alice is a famous author, who dates a man named Felix, who is elusive, difficult, and brooding. Felix likes Alice though he treats her poorly at times, and is often unable to give her exactly what she needs. Eileen’s other best friend is Simon, with whom she has been friends since childhood. The two have had unresolved feelings for each other forever, though they have always had a hard time expressing themselves and always misunderstand each other. Life for these four is at times easy and at other times, complicated as hell, but then that’s life. In Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney delves into these relationships with a deft hand. Diving deep and identifying every multifaceted aspect of the relationships between both friends and lovers. My takeaway? Nothing is ever easy and yet, everything worth having is worth working towards. I had been eagerly awaiting Ms. Rooney’s next novel and it was worth the wait. While I didn’t quite love this as much as either Conversations with Friends or my absolute favorite novel of hers, Normal People, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to her next novel. This once again showcased Sally Rooney’s writing style and her brilliant understanding of people, humanity, and of relationships. Thank you to Libro.fm and Macmillan Audio for the alc. Published on Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    So many books I've been looking forward to this year which have been big disappointments. I had such high hopes for this novel, but it ended up being a long slog that went nowhere. I couldn't connect with or believe in any of the characters (the male characters were particularly undeveloped) and the epistolary device didn't work at all; it just felt like a vehicle for Rooney to muse on pseudo-deep ideas. SO many pages of telling and describing the actions of characters and their physical movement So many books I've been looking forward to this year which have been big disappointments. I had such high hopes for this novel, but it ended up being a long slog that went nowhere. I couldn't connect with or believe in any of the characters (the male characters were particularly undeveloped) and the epistolary device didn't work at all; it just felt like a vehicle for Rooney to muse on pseudo-deep ideas. SO many pages of telling and describing the actions of characters and their physical movements (almost as if to help guide a future tv/film adaptation) which did nothing to forward the plot. I am looking forward to hearing what other readers make of this. If we're making direct comparisons to Rooney's previous novels it's definitely more like Conversations with Friends than Normal People in my view: pretentious people stewing over relationships which seem doomed/not worth pursuing from the get-go. The book also felt very auto-fictional to me - the protagonist Alice has written two books which were very successful, one of which has been adapted for tv/film - which was unexpected but also didn't really come to anything beyond us getting a glimpse into the psyche of a reluctantly famous and private author.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nomadic Reader (Baba Yaga)

    Homegirl really wrote a smutty romance and fooled us all into thinking she had produced the next literary masterpiece. Truly iconic. All jokes aside, I really do admire Rooney for succeeding in what hundreds of writers before her couldn't do: give female-focused erotic romance the literary status its male equivalent has long been granted. Gone are the days when you had to hide your Harlequin novel inside The Brothers Karamazov for fear of being judged by other passengers on public transport: now Homegirl really wrote a smutty romance and fooled us all into thinking she had produced the next literary masterpiece. Truly iconic. All jokes aside, I really do admire Rooney for succeeding in what hundreds of writers before her couldn't do: give female-focused erotic romance the literary status its male equivalent has long been granted. Gone are the days when you had to hide your Harlequin novel inside The Brothers Karamazov for fear of being judged by other passengers on public transport: now you can read the latest Sally Rooney in broad daylight and even pass for a sophisticated intellectual. One small step for an author, one giant leap for publishing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    as president of the sally rooney fan club i was lucky enough to receive an ARC :') i vlogged my reading experience here!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d3A9... as president of the sally rooney fan club i was lucky enough to receive an ARC :') i vlogged my reading experience here!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d3A9...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    If you love Sally Rooney - and I do, I think she’s a unique, spiky, marvelous voice - this will be a blast. The structure, part epistolary, part unusually removed narration, is fascinating and Alice (a Rooney surrogate, in my reading) and Eileen are terrific leads. The test of multi-perspective, I think, is a feeling of loss every time the book pivots, followed quickly by a renewed interest, the reading speeding as it goes. That was the case here.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eoin Mulligan

    when i was diagnosed with covid i thought that being isolated to my bedroom for two weeks was the most boring thing in the world - Sally Rooney has now proven me wrong.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Romie

    I can’t believe Sally Rooney made me cry in the middle of Sainsbury’s, holding a croissant, wanting to hug myself.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    I bought this book the night before its official publication at the book reading and signing that the author gave at Waterstones. Piccadilly and then also watched the online stream of her live event at the Southbank where she was interviewed by Emma Dabiri – both events the first of their kind since lockdown. In both events – and particularly the one where I was able to observe her in person - I have to say that the author came across as thoughtful and modest and genuine – for example clearly mo I bought this book the night before its official publication at the book reading and signing that the author gave at Waterstones. Piccadilly and then also watched the online stream of her live event at the Southbank where she was interviewed by Emma Dabiri – both events the first of their kind since lockdown. In both events – and particularly the one where I was able to observe her in person - I have to say that the author came across as thoughtful and modest and genuine – for example clearly moved by what I think was a standing ovation from the Southbank crowd (a comment that is relevant to the book) In the interview Sally Rooney explained that both as an author known for her millennial relationship novels and a committed socialist (even Marxist) the dilemma that she has grappled with is how to incorporate abstract, idealistic and didactic principles into a novel form which is meant to be open and concerned, personal and intimate. In other words how can she pay deep attention to the psychological realities of characters (characters that it is clear she deeply believes in) – while at same time write a novel which tries to engage deeply with a socialist view of the world. For it is clear that she both loves (and knows she is very good at) writing conventional novels while at the same time being unable to forgive herself if she wrote books which turned away from what she perceives as a period of historic crisis related to the precise iteration of capitalism the world is suffering under. Instead she wanted to see how her novels could engage with those conditions. Added to that (although strangely not really concentrated on by the interviewer) is (and this is more my view therefore than what was in the novel) there is a desire to write more of an autofictional account of celebrity culture and how it feels to be an unwitting and unwilling participant in it – not by dint of choice and a wish for fame but as a side-product of being wildly successful in what is in essence an insular artistic form. All of this lead to the structure of this novel – one that is very different form the author’s previous novels. In essence we have to interleaved and largely (with the exception of a brief run of chapters at the end) alternating chapter types with a third key strand being the identity of the protagonists: (1) An almost classical Rooney (can you say that after only two novels – yes I think you can given the cultural capital they have created: ironical perhaps to reflect if Rooney is therefore a cultural capitalist) four part relationship tale – one written in her trademark style which is at the same time both banal and yet perfectly judged. The difference in this novel is the narrative style – rather than a classic omniscient narrator we have one who acts at a more detached level – observing and reporting on the characters actions and speech - and even later in the book, at precisely the point when the characters all converge, distancing itself still further in away which briefly almost takes on the tone of an anthropological documentary . As an aside this detached style made Rooney’s trademark frank writing about sex (and the way it signifies and prompts shifting relationship dynamics and interior identities) very difficult not to convey in a mechanistic/voyeuristic way. Even late on in editing she took persuading (correctly I think) that she had succeeded and did not need (as she had suggested) to drop the scenes from the novel. (2) A much more intimate epistolary series of chapters between the two female protagonists – in which the two argue and debate back and forth about issues such as: Capitalism (and the many faults thereof and the crises it has generated); Socialism (and the many advantages thereof); Religion - a much more nuanced discussion with both drawn for different reasons to many of the tenets of Christianity – both the consolations and coherence of a faith-filled worldview and the person, fictional or not, of Jesus as written in the gospels – while at the same time fundamentally rejecting both what they see as superstition and the historically oppressive role of the Irish Catholic church); World and Irish politics; Beauty and worth and goodness (which of course references the book's Schiller-inspired title) . In these chapters we typically gain precisely the interiority of a characters thoughts that we are kept at arms length from by the style of the narrative parts. We also see how their ideas and debates affect their relationship and feelings for each other – and vice versa. (3) And all of this with three protagonists who all play an active part in the literary world: Alice - a famous and successful young female author struggling with the spotlight of fame and with being regarded as public property; Eileen - a low paid editor on a literary magazine whose rather more prosaic struggle is for economic sufficiency; Felix - a worker in a distribution warehouse (one which as the author herself has said does not require a stretch of the imagination to assume distributes the author’s books) struggling more with the tedium of his job. Felix also acts as something almost along the lines of a court-jester: capable of punctuating the always nuanced, always unspoken, always misunderstood dynamics between the other three with his blunt observations. Simon - who works for a small and left wing political party and is also a quietly genuine Catholic. His day-t0-day engagement with both politics and his faith stand in contrast and challenge both to Alice and Eileen's earnest theoretical discussions and Felix's disinterest. Both I think of the first two characters could be said to be alternate-Sally Rooney’s. The first I think sharing her success and ambiguity about that success but differing I think from her more in personal circumstance (no stability of marriage with a maths teacher husband here, instead a psychological breakdown) and interestingly (at least to me) having a manner with others which seems to fit far more the spiky/distant persona projected on to Rooney by her many public detractors than how she actually seems to be in public. And in keeping with the meta-nature of the book Alice discusses in detail how she is perceived and discussed by people who do not know her - both fans and critics. The second reflecting the author’s own work on editing Stinging Fly magazine but without her own literary success. Eileen's only written work is an essay on Natalie Ginzburg - who provides the book's epigraph. The third character of course allows the debate about power structures and the underpinnings of capital to be explored in the literary world itself. As always with Rooney the evolution of relationships and the power within them is key to the novel. Simon’s relationship with Eileen functions on something of a classical Emma/Knightley axis. Alice with Felix is more of a classic capital/power imbalance. Alice and Eileen’s relationship is also of course pivotal and as prone to mutual misunderstanding as the other two - their contrasting trajectories of popularity and success having something of the Marianne/Connell about it. I have to say though that for me the most skillfully portrayed relationships were two strained sibling relationships – Eileen and her sister Lola conducted over a series of passive-aggressive texts/messages and Felix and his brother conducted mainly over a face-to-face confrontation – both elder siblings fixated on trying to demolish our protagonists self-esteem and negate their opinions with their barbed behaviour. The book's faults: Firstly I think the length - it just feels like the book is around 33% too long and drags around half-way; Secondly the millennial aspect - its not the pre-occupation with early relationships and seemingly non weight issues that other older readers have criticised in her earlier work (in fact this is dealt with rather neatly in a discussion on - my term - proximity bias of memory) but its the idea of characters (and in fact an author) that genuinely believe Marxism is a good thing and the fall of the Soviet Union a bad thing. Overall though I found this a fascinating book – one which cleverly confronts much of the criticism aimed at her first two novels.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nora Kovacs

    Rooney’s books have two topics, capitalism and alienation. In her third book, she adds another one, fame, and gets somewhat personal. The chapters in this novel alternate between the email correspondences of two friends, and their unfolding lives. They have been roommates during college, now they are each other’s passive-aggressive pen pals. Since their school years neither one of them found happiness and contentment and old insecurities bubbled up to the surface. Alice found international succe Rooney’s books have two topics, capitalism and alienation. In her third book, she adds another one, fame, and gets somewhat personal. The chapters in this novel alternate between the email correspondences of two friends, and their unfolding lives. They have been roommates during college, now they are each other’s passive-aggressive pen pals. Since their school years neither one of them found happiness and contentment and old insecurities bubbled up to the surface. Alice found international success as a novelist (cough cough) but also had a mental breakdown and Eileen not only failed to live up to her potential, but she is starting to even question that she had any in the first place, and so it begins. The girls write long emails to each other about how they can’t reconcile their artistic sensitivities with the capitalist reality of the world around them and also take the opportunity to snap at each other, very politely of course. As of Rooney, she takes the opportunity to channel all her bitterness about her industry, about celebrity culture, about her critics through Alice. Going as far as excusing the perceived triviality of her recurring topics: “Maybe we're just born to love and worry about the people we know and to go on loving and worrying even when there are more important things we should be doing. And if that means the human species is going to die out, isn't it in a way a nice reason to die out, the nicest reason you can imagine? Because when we should have been reorganizing the distribution of the world's resources and transitioning collectively to a sustainable economic model, we were worrying about sex and friendship instead. Because we loved each other too much and found each other too interesting. And I love that about humanity, and in fact it's the very reason I root for us to survive - because we are so stupid about each other.” Now onto the love interests. Eileen is in love with Simon, who is very similar to Nathan from Mr. Salary. (This reference is for the Rooney aficionado.) Simon is older and has his shit together and is also in love with her. They are both emotionally stunted, however. They spend most of the novel having some sex, and lots of miscommunication. Eileen writes to Alice at one point that she feels “so frightened of being hurt – not the suffering, which I know I can handle, but the indignity of suffering, the indignity of being open to it”, not realizing at that point that the suffering will come one way or another due to indecision. At the same time into Alice’s life a new character is introduced in Felix. Felix is so far my favourite Sally Rooney character, he is so refreshing that he makes this whole book. He is so well drawn that even though his outlines were designed to cause suspicion, I just laughed at the attempt and continued reading with the conviction that he is a good one. I was just talking with someone the other day about Rooney’s annoying open endings and we hoped this time it will be different. I don’t know if the pandemic wore us down and we need a happy ending badly in our lives, but it seems that Rooney is in sync with us. Or maybe we are just growing up and ambiguity is just not that much fun anymore. The stakes are getting higher, life will move on without us if we are not careful. “To think of childhood gave her a funny queasy feeling, because it had been real life once and now it was something else.” Also, “And isn’t death just the apocalypse in first person?”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Henk

    Oh, cover revealed! :-D Superexcited, although the description sounds rather familiar 📚

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hamad

    This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me ☕ “I will probably continue to make poor life decisions and suffer recurrent depressive episodes” I feel that this quote sums up my feeling when it comes to Rooney’s books. I learned the lesson the hard way and I am never reading any of her books again. In fact, I feel she keeps writing the same book with different character names and here is my guide to write your own Sally Rooney novel: Do not use quotation marks!! The Place and Ti This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me ☕ “I will probably continue to make poor life decisions and suffer recurrent depressive episodes” I feel that this quote sums up my feeling when it comes to Rooney’s books. I learned the lesson the hard way and I am never reading any of her books again. In fact, I feel she keeps writing the same book with different character names and here is my guide to write your own Sally Rooney novel: Do not use quotation marks!! The Place and Time: Dublin and in the modern time, duh! Don’t worry because the descriptions are going to be so generic that you can easily change it to Paris, New York or even Brazil and it wouldn’t make a difference. But Since Rooney lives in Dublin, it sounds more authentic that way. The Characters: Make them as pretentious and pompous as possible. The more insufferable they are, the better it will be. Sounds like readers are bored from normal characters so self loathing characters will be great. We need to spice things up so make the characters -specially females- smoke cigarettes and joints. Let the characters dive into philosophical discussions mostly based on Wikipedia and do not forget to include Marxism in the story. “When they were twenty-four, Alice signed an American book deal for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. She said no one in the publishing industry knew anything about money, and that if they were stupid enough to give it to her, she was avaricious enough to take it.” For the sake of diversity, make most of the characters LGBTQ, do not panic because they will end up in straight relationships but include Bi and Pan characters when possible. Another tip is to let characters text each others through emails although there are all kinds of social media in the world! The Plot: This is easier than it sounds as there is really no plot, just mix all the above mentioned chaos and let characters miscommunicate and just make everyone sleep with everyone -not an orgy though- and that’s it! The Writing: Since there is no real plot but you should hit a certain word count, try to describe things as much as possible. Remember you can always add random things from Wikipedia. DO NOT USE QUOTATION MARKS!!! Side Note: In this particular book, Alice was obviously a representation of Rooney herself and it was funny how she kept whining about being successful and having millions of dollars and how authors life is hard! Summary: Pretentious, obnoxious, pompous, artificial!!! NOOOOOOPE, definitely not a fan of the author’s writing! Farewell Rooney!

  30. 4 out of 5

    David

    I am a low key Sally Rooney stan. Beautiful World, Where Are You is her most mature work to date, with characters hovering around age 30 and with the varying levels of maturity that that entails. This may not sparkle with freshness like Normal People, but the prose here is even more self assured. Rooney writes how people think and talk and live in a way that seems effortless. The detached narrator worked for me and the juxtaposition with the confessional chapters was brilliant.

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