The author of Conversations With Friends and Normal People will publish her new novel Beautiful World, Where Are You via Faber & Faber on September 7th - but what do you need to know?
1. It's definitely a Sally Rooney book.
The synopsis for Beautiful World, Where Are You reads thusly:
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?
2. It's the literary event of the season.
On the back of its acclaimed TV adaptation, Normal People has now sold more than one million copies, a phenomenal achievement for a 'literary' novel in the modern age. Book retailers here and in the UK are opening early on the day of release to sell copies, the kind of thing that used to happen for U2 albums back in the day. Advance editions have been reportedly trading hands for hundred of Euros online.
We're counting down the days until the publication of Sally Rooney’s new novel Beautiful World, Where Are You. Pre-order the @waterstones special edition, featuring sprayed edges and an exclusive short story #BWWAY https://t.co/TiLYSKrVQh pic.twitter.com/wrUkh8L7kt— Faber Books (@FaberBooks) August 23, 2021
3. The inevitable backlash has already begun.
If you've been heralded as the voice of your generation, chances are that someone's going to take issue with it, especially in these reactionary times. A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald came complete with a clickbait-y headline seemingly purpose-designed to provoke the lively online reaction that followed: 'Surely there are better literary heroes for our generation than Sally Rooney?'
The article proceeded to bait Rooney's admirers further: 'The mainstream adoration of Rooney and her novels has a distinct impenetrability to it. You can't criticise it, lest you be accused of blasphemy. Loving Rooney’s novels is akin to loving indoor plants: you’re a bit of a monster if you don’t have them in your home.'
4. She's kind of a big deal.
Beautiful World, Where Are You was teased with an extract in The New Yorker, still the literary bible of choice, followed by a spattering of in-depth profiles in top-tier publications like Vogue, The New York Times, The Guardian. At 30 years of age, Rooney can already play the publicity game on her own terms. And if that means posing with an owl, then so be it.
Very preoccupied with this photo of Sally Rooney pic.twitter.com/BM4O6TlUew— Mícheál McCann (@micklemccann) August 28, 2021
5. She doesn't really care what people think.
At present, Rooney maintains a non-existent online presence, the 21st century equivalent of being (virtually) enigmatic to the point of reclusiveness. In truth, publishing three novels in four years suggests a talent who certainly isn't resting on her laurels, or pandering to anything other than a stated desire to do her own thing. "It's not my job to populate my books with characters that other people find relatable," she told The Guardian. "It’s my job to write about whatever comes into my head. If you don’t want to read novels about writers, or women, or Irish people, don’t read my novels. I won’t mind"
6. There's more to come...
Conversations With Friends is due to be broadcast worldwide in 2022, reuniting the team who brought Normal People to the screen for a 12-part TV adaptation of Rooney's debut, with a cast including Joe Alwyn and Jemima Kirke. We're still holding out for cameos from Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones. Rooneyverse, anyone?
So what's Beautiful World, Where Are You actually like?
We actually can't say, because like everyone else we had to sign a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) before getting our hands on a copy. But the RTÉ Culture review is already scheduled for publication day, and for now we can say three things... It's her longest book to date. A lot of people will be talking about this book in the coming weeks. And we are already looking forward to the TV show.