• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Rooney's characters engage in extensive self-reflection while struggling to open up emotionally to each other. Their vulnerabilities feel hard-won and powerful.

“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 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.”


I wasn't sure if I was ready for another Sally Rooney book after reading Conversations with Friends a few weeks ago. But I was taken with Beautiful World, Where Are You.

Although successful young novelist Alice just met Felix, a young man working in a warehouse in the seaside town where she's staying temporarily, she invites Felix to travel to Rome on a book tour with her. Meanwhile, Alice's best friend Eileen is questioning her life path, working at a literary magazine and feeling generally adrift. She's just gone through a breakup and is growing closer to a childhood friend she's always secretly loved.

The best friends and their love interests delve into their complex connections with each of the others, and through an omniscient viewpoint, Beautiful World Where Are You tracks the characters' romantic fits and starts, power shifts, and the roots and growth of their emotional connections.

Some of the book is epistolary--Eileen and Alice write long emails to each other questioning their own motives and missions and concerns and pondering those of the people around them. The characters' sometimes hard-fought expressions of their vulnerabilities were poignant and powerful, and this was my favorite element of the book.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

I was taken with Rooney's sometimes discomforting book Normal People last year--and was all in for the TV series based upon it.

I didn't feel connected to the characters or their motivations in the same way while reading the author's Conversations with Friends.