Beautiful World, Where Are You was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and oh, did Sally Rooney just knock it out of the park. There’s whip-smart banter, quirky characters, and such keen social commentary that you’ll be underlining AND taking notes. There’s emotional drama, and then there is sex. A lot of sex. This book is an unconventional mix of brilliant that’s more than just good. It’s great.
Eileen is in her late twenties and an editorial assistant at a State-subsidized literary magazine. A position that pays her twenty-thousand pounds a year, before taxes. A position she only relatively likes. Maybe because of its inability to afford her a roommate-less flat in Dublin. The most expensive city in Europe.
Alice is a famous author and does not want for money nor a roommate-less living space. She’s accumulated close to a million and lives in a sprawling countryside rectory (rent-free). Still, Alice is no happier than Eileen is. The famous author life, which (for a hot second) she believed she craved in her early twenties, led only to a breakdown and misery.
Oh, and before I forget to mention it, Eileen and Alice are best friends. Though, it’s complicated. Since Alice’s success and subsequent mental breakdown, their relationship has become email-based.
Told from multiple points of view, Beautiful World, Where Are You follows Alice, Eileen, Simon, and Felix. The latter are the two guys who intersect Alice and Eileen’s lives. The characters are complex and human. The relationships complicated. Because real life is just that, a knotty tangle of expectations where much is lost in translation. There’s something effortlessly and perfectly on point about the (at times diametrical because don’t we all have different opinions) observations the characters make.
“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.”Sally Rooney
Beautiful World, Where Are You is a book that makes you think while it entertains you, and really that’s my favorite kind of read.
A knockout through and through, and one of my top ten reads of 2021.
Book: Beautiful World, Where Are You
Published: Faber& Faber
Publication Date: September 7th, 2021