Maximum Shelf: BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU (8/2/21)

Yesterday’s Shelf Awareness Maximum Shelf pick was BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU, a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of NORMAL PEOPLE and CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS.

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 break-up, 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?

“BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU could be considered a novel of modern technology, which it is, or a millennial story, which, given the age of its characters, it also is. But it does not fit quite so neatly into one description or another, because the search for depth and meaning in a life is universal, despite its specificity to the year(s) in which it is set. These four characters lift their phones and set them down; browse the social-media pages of ex-boyfriends and write each other long, meandering e-mails about the meaning of life; swipe right on Tinder and sleep with their childhood best friend. In Rooney’s capable hands, these details of the lives of four friends are twined together without judgment, presented instead as a comment unto themselves: this is life, BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU, seems to say. The beautiful world is right here–even when it isn’t so beautiful at all.”–Shelf Awareness


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