"Beautiful World Where Are You" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz
“Beautiful World, Where Are You,” by Sally Rooney, is the story of four friends living in or near Dublin who are navigating their way towards acceptance of their lives, careers, romances and family history. They are all in their early 30s.
Elaine, a literary editor at a magazine, and Simon, an administrator with the government, share a 15-year friendship. Even during their romantic relationships with others, they stay in touch and connect during trying periods.
Alice, a successful novelist, communicates with her college friend Elaine for much of a year via email after Alice moves outside of Dublin to rent a house near the sea. When the women finally meet at Alice’s, Elaine brings Simon, also a friend of Alice’s. They meet Felix, a warehouse worker, who is romantically involved with Alice.
At Alice’s, Simon and Elaine determine the direction their relationship as friends will take. After a big fight, Alice and Elaine dissect their relationship and must come to a conclusion about their importance to each other.
The love between Alice and Felix is mysterious. He is not very educated, while she is a literary sensation recently plagued with exhaustion and boredom. She has money to spare, while Alex works for a pittance in a freezing warehouse.
Set in the early days of the 2020 pandemic, the characters grapple with the disruptions in their career plans, their evolving expectations for families of their own, their dysfunctional family histories and their own personal insecurities. Their futures have been disrupted by political upheaval and the pandemic. They are unexpectedly facing universal questions about what is important in life, what it takes to be satisfied, and what is important in our relationship with others.
The author has a gift for addressing the essential yearnings for love and recognition through chapters that develop the characters with descriptions of their movements and thoughts on ordinary days. The emails between Alice and Elaine help the characters further evolve through philosophical discussions of religion, family dynamics and relationships.
Fans of Sally Rooney will enjoy the well-crafted profiles of four characters that represent some parts of every human.
About the Author: Rooney is the author of “Normal People,” a popular television show streaming on the HULU channel.