Off the Shelf: Beautiful World, Where Are You
By Sally Rooney Farrar Strauss, and Giroux 2021 356 pp.
Review by Terrence J. Kenneally
Sally Rooney is probably the hottest person in Irish literature currently. She is the author of Conversations with Friendsand Normal People. She also contributed to the writing and production of the Hulu/BBC television adaptation of Normal People.
The novel follows Alice, an acclaimed writer, and her best friend, Eileen, who works at a literary magazine in Dublin; they were college roommates. The couple remain friends in touch via email, updating each other about what’s going on in their lives professionally aa well as romantically.
Alice, after suffering s breakdown, leaves New York City and moves to the countryside of Ireland by the sea. Here she meets Felix, a man she hardly knows, and asks him to travel to Rome with her for some book events. On the other hand, Eileen has recently broken up with her long-term boyfriend and then slipped back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since her teenage years and had a crush on.
Beautiful World, Where Are You doesn’t have a strong plot. In fact, an argument can be made that it is the kind of plot-less un-novel we’ve grown accustomed to. The opening of the book is quite entertaining and brimming with sharp, witty humor, which soon progresses into devouring email conversations. These emails alternated from Alice and Eileen every other chapter. While writing to one another, these two friends figure out the difficulties of life and love throughout the story.
Beautiful World, Where Are You is an outstanding literary achievement. It’s a story about navigating careers, friendships and relationships, with characters that are realistically flawed, and struggling to honestly convey their thoughts and emotions.
The ending of the book will probably leave many readers with mixed emotions, but this reviewer felt it ended on a ‘happy ending’. Beautiful World Where Are You is Rooney’s best novel yet, funny and smart, full of sex and love and people doing their best to connect; a TOP SHELF read.
*Terrence J Kenneally is an attorney and owner of /Terrence J Kenneally & Assoc. in Rocky River, Ohio. He received his Master’s in Irish Literature. He can he reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.