First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a breakup and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.
Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young – but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships 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?
Wow. And just like that, we are a few days away from welcoming a new month. Time literally zoomed past us. We welcomed 2022 with both apprehension and excitement but it feels as though January 1 was months ago. With one month done, I hope that the rest of 2022 will be brimming with hope, healing, and recovery. I hope that 2022 will be a great year for you, your friends, your family, everyone. I hope that the pandemic will end soon so that we can experience a semblance of what it was to live pre-pandemic. I remain optimistic that we are at the end of the tunnel. On a more personal note, I pray that we will all achieve all the goals that we have set for ourselves. I hope and pray that you are and you will be doing well, in body, mind, and spirit.
With another work week done, I hope that you ended it on a high note. If not, I hope the weekend gives you your badly needed reprieve. But before we could fully embrace the weekend, let me close the work week with a new First Impression Friday update. Even before the year started, I made a promise to myself (and my unread books shelf) that I will catch up on my 2021 reading list, that I will read all the books published in 2021 in my possession. My reading journey has thus far been a successful one. I got to read an interesting mix of both familiar and unfamiliar writers. I am on a roll and I have been gathering steam these past few weeks. With my regained momentum, I have completed eight books already. Sally Rooney’s latest novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You is my ninth read for the year.
I first came across Irish writer Sally Rooney back in 2019, when her sophomore novel, Normal Friends, made it to my 2019 Top 20 Reading List. I was really looking forward to the book because, over the years, Irish writers have earned my admiration because of their lyrical prose. While Normal Friends carried on this tradition, I found myself underwhelmed by the story. It was for this reason that I was not too keen on reading her latest novel. The mixed reviews I read from fellow book bloggers and readers did little to convince me. But there was something about these reviews that slowly piqued my interest. This helped me overcome my reservations. The polar reviews made me want to experience it myself. True enough, I couldn’t resist the temptation of jumping on the bandwagon.
The novel focused on four characters – Alice the novelist, Eileen the quintessential office worker, Felix the warehouse supervisor, and Simon the heartthrob. It has become apparent that as the story progressed, it has a very thin plot. Rather, the story’s focus is the characters and how, I have surmised, they will develop and grow as the story moved forward. Except for Felix, the three characters knew each other even before the novel started. Simon and Eileen were childhood friends even though he is five years her senior. Eileen and Alice, on the other hand, were roommates when they studied at the university. Felix was a stranger Alice encountered and who she invited for her book tour in Rome, on their first date!
As I get to know the characters more, it became increasingly apparent that despite their relatively young age – they were all in their twenties – the realities have started catching up with them. Through them, Rooney was slowly laying out the plight of millennials. The story, raw and often times honest, grappled with what every millennial is starting to experience as they advance in age, from the longing for someone else’s company or touch to the requisite life and financial stability to the pressures of figuring one’s life out to the complications of relationships. Yes, the novel was very much about relationships, platonic, romantic, or otherwise. Despite the slow start, I slowly found myself engrossed in the main character’s story.
Again, Rooney’s language was lyrical even though she omitted (once again) the quotation marks; she has an aversion for them I guess. She does have this knack for capturing the voice of the millennial. However, reading the book was without its discomforts. As was expected, there were several scenes that were cringe-worthy and, well, does not move the story forward. That phone call between Simon and Eileen was particularly cringy and awkward. Sex, it seems, was essential in the story. While I can relate to some of the plights of the characters, I don’t find any of them likable. The women were portrayed as clingy while the men were, well, jerks. But maybe it was deliberate for I think that they will grow as the story reaches its denouement. At least I hope so.
Strangely, the two pairs never got the chance to meet up even though they live in the same city. Eileen and Alice, for instance, don’t do phone calls but they communicate only through emails. Details of the contemporary period subtly made their way through the story but it still confused me why Eileen and Alice chose to communicate through email when they can call each other or even meet up. With less than a hundred pages more to go before I finish the book, I am hoping that I get to that long-awaited character development that I feel is the focus of the story (fingers crossed). I am excited and, at the same time, anxious about how the story will pan out. I still remain hopeful that it will be a great reading journey. How about you fellow reader? What book are you digging into this weekend? I hope you get to enjoy it! For now, happy reading! Have a great weekend ahead.