I mean, what can I say. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney is just not for me.
My mid-book review pretty much sums it up:
Beautiful World, Where Are You follows four people in their early to mid-thirties as they go about life. Eileen, Alice, Simon, and Felix write emails, go on dates, visit with one another, and talk and talk and talk throughout it all. That’s the beginning and end of the plot – people talking at each other.
There is a lot of mundanity here. Things I maybe wouldn’t spend so much time discussing in a book, such as every step of changing WH Auden to W.H. Auden. Sometimes the mundanity leads to more profound revelations, still waters running deep and all of that. I don’t know that it does here.
We’re mired in glances, awkward conversations, relationship statuses, and pretentious viewpoints loudly declared.
The worst part: arrested development
Part of me (okay, more than just part of me) feels impatient with these characters. Nearing or in their 30s, they seem too old to be still acting so immature. Of course, aren’t we all, but these characters seem remarkably self-centered.
They still have so many convictions that would be more appropriate for people in their early 20s who are still figuring out life and how to adult while loudly declaring their beliefs as the only valid ones.
At one point, Eileen invites herself to church with Simon, then writes a long email to Alice about how mass rubbed her the wrong way as if she were seeing church for the first time and was shocked and offended by every part, and religion as a whole.
Sally Rooney is a brilliant but often polarizing author. People tend to claim she’s either the next great millennial literary mind or overrated. I’m reluctant to fall on either one of those camps because I just haven’t read a significant enough sample of her work to be reliable. I didn’t even finish Beautiful World, Where Are You. It joined my small DNF pile because I just couldn’t even with these people.
Let’s compare the book to Seinfeld, the famous TV show about nothing. With Seinfeld, we have good fun laughing at the cringey characters as they bumble through awkward situations.
Beautiful World, Where Are You has much the same setup, but none of the pleasure. The characters here aren’t charismatic or lovingly flawed, with at least somewhat endearing quirks.
Instead, they’re just annoying.
If you’re in the same boat as me (and hopefully you’re not and you enjoyed the book like many others did), here’s another book you might enjoy. The New Me by Halle Butler is also lauded as a quintessential millennial novel, following a young woman who is juicily unlikeable and immature as she bounces from one disaster to another.
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