Beautiful World, Where Are You: Fintan O’Toole on Sally Rooney’s tense, very risky new novel

Review: Even when the characters in Rooney’s third novel are overwrought, her writing never is

Sally Rooney photographed by Ellius Grace/New York Times

Sally Rooney photographed by Ellius Grace/New York Times

Sally Rooney is regarded, not without reason, as the novelist who best expresses the lives of those born into the western middle class in the 1990s. But she has written, in Beautiful World, Where Are You, a 19th-century novel. It is, paradoxically, a bold choice. Nothing, for her, could be less safe.

Her title comes from a Friedrich Schiller poem set to music by Franz Schubert in 1819. The novel itself refers back to Leo Tolstoy in the way it combines the small world of love and intimacy with the large one of politics and ideas, putting the extremely private side by side with the very public.

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.