“Beautiful World, Where Are You” : A Sally Rooney Review

As one of the most influential millennial author, Sally Rooney has taken the literary world by a storm. Today, at daastan, we will take a look at her latest novel, “Beautiful World, Where Are You“. After all, a detailed review is what everyone looks for before picking up a new story- As always, we have what you need.

The Author

Our 30 year old Irish author has three books under her belt already. What is surprising is the brilliant reception all three books have gotten: Conversation with Friends (2017), Normal People (2018) and Beautiful World, Where Are You (2021).

Moreover, within a very short time, she has dominated the literary award scene. To name a few, she won The Sunday Times’ Young Writer of the Year. “Normal People” was always awarded Novel of the Year by the Irish Book Awards.

Further, her politics of socialism are evident in all her texts. Class commentary and musings of a politically aware millennial all set against the modern world of capitalism. These are two facets one will find in all of her novels.

Beautiful World, Where Are You?

At the heart of it, the plot revolves around two friends and their significant others. Alice is a novelist navigating high culture, but coming from a lower class background. On the other hand, Eileen is the every-day middle class worker; stuck in a low paying literary gig. More than anything, it is a love story between two friends– with the male characters as plot propellers. Which, I must say, is a refreshing turn of events.

Before we delve into what I thought of the book, lets take a look at one of the most accurate blurbs I have come across,

Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young- but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they worry about sex and friendship 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?

Tone, Characters and Politics

In my opinion, Rooney’s simplistic writing style is breath of fresh air. Of course, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea- but sometimes getting right to the heart of things is what is needed. It is a multi perspective, third person novel, shifting from Alice and Felix to Eileen and Simon- until they all come together.

Additionally, as a reader one can practically envision the build up. The setting up of each girl’s individual life- before they met, when they met and after they left one another. It highlights their relationship with their families– both unsatisfactory, as well as all other influences that shaped them. In their humanly selfish actions, Rooney does a good job of humanizing them. So much so that we never end up hating them or judging them. Instead, “Beautiful World, Where Are You” acts as a lesson in empathy and understanding.

Moreover, politics is a big part of the novel. It is underlying every dialogue, every interaction. From Alice’s hyper-awareness of her privilege, to Eileen’s envy that stems from a unfulfilled work life to Felix’s working class background. It dictates everything. And we could all do with a lesson in class consciousness, couldn’t we?

However, I will say that the novel has a tendency to get a little bleak and academic at times. Especially in the contents of the emails that Alice and Eileen send each other. Now, I have never emailed my best friend contemplating the end of history, language and literature but if it makes for a beautiful read- then we must do what is required.

Final Thoughts and Quote Box!

Beautiful World, Where Are You” is an easy read that leaves quite an impact. Barring metaphors and imageries, the simplicity of the text is sometimes what resonates the most. It is definitely a recommendation on your part, with an acknowledgement that the writing style may not be for everyone.

In order to help you give a closer insight into the book (without giving much away), below is a list of my favourite quotes from the book!

  • “Really my problem is that I’m annoyed at everyone else for not having all the answers, when I also have none…What have I ever given the world to ask for so much in return?”
  • “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.”
  • “If God wanted me to give you up, he wouldn’t have made me who I am”
  • “I just think about the goodness of you as a person. And since you like me, or you love me, I must be okay.”

If this is content that you enjoy, we might even do an entire series on Rooney’s novels and their television adaptations. Stay tuned to find out!


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