The beginning of the story unfolds in Carricklea, Sligo in western Ireland. Our main characters are Connell and Marianne and they are young adults, attending the same school and about to decide on university options. Connell is very popular and from a middle class background. Marianne is from a well to do family, living in a mansion. She is considered strange and avoided at school. Connell's mother Lorraine is employed as a cleaner at Marianne's home and it's there Connell and Marianne first start talking and becoming friends.
Whatever went on in Marianne's early life shaped her to feel as if she could never be loved. She does not have friends and when things start up with Connell she is pleasantly surprised. They decide to keep their relationship a secret and this I found troubling.
When Marianne is physically abused Connell comes to her aid and she feels loved. He tells her she makes him happy.
"Even in memory she will find this moment unbearably intense.....She has never believed herself fit to be loved by any person. But now she has a new life...the beginning of my life."
They have a weird friendship and sexual relationship which eventually, as you can imagine, takes a huge turn. The setting then moves to Trinity in Dublin for university. Now the social situation is reversed and Marianne is the one with friends while Connell is at times merely tolerated.
Their lives and loves intertwine constantly over the years. They change each other, they support one another, they love and leave one another and always come back.
"All these years they've been like two little plants sharing the same plot of soil. growing around one another, contorting to make room, taking certain unlikely positions."
I enjoyed this author's writing style and will look for more. Sally Rooney was born in western Ireland in 1991 and I feel her firsthand knowledge of the area is accurately portrayed in this novel.
Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.