Irish novelist Sally Rooney has spent the last four years taking the literary world by storm. Hailed as a “Salinger for the Snapchat generation,” she released her first book in 2017, Conversations with Friends, to rapturous critical acclaim. Two years later came Normal People, a bestseller that became a highly praised, Emmy-nominated television series on Hulu.
The meteoric rise is set to continue this year. Today, publisher Farrar Straus and Giroux announced it will publish Rooney’s third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You on September 7, 2021, with a fourth book to follow shortly after.
Like Conversations with Friends and Normal People, Beautiful World promises to be another deeply perceptive story of neurotic Irish millennials fumbling their way through romance and socio-political upheaval. It centers on a writer named Alice who invites a warehouse worker, Felix, to accompany her on a trip to Rome. Meanwhile, back in Dublin, Alice's best friend Eileen is embroiled in a romance of her own.
“The title itself speaks to some of the book’s themes, it’s an unanswered question,” Mitzi Angel, the publisher of FSG, told the New York Times. “The characters are contemplating a world in which the future is very uncertain for them—what’s the world of work going to look like, what’s going to happen to the planet, what are the politics we are all living through. I think the stakes are higher.”
Rooney has emerged as a preeminent voice of her generation: young people on the cusp of adulthood who came of age during deep economic and existential turmoil. It’s not difficult to see why readers and critics are taken with her work. She captures so acutely the anxieties of social interactions in the time of Twitter, and whether or not true romance is possible under the shadow of late-stage capitalism.
However, this whole “voice of a generation” thing is a label with which Rooney herself is not terribly comfortable. “I feel no obligation to act as an interpreter,” she told OprahMag.com in 2019. “I’m not trying to say, ‘Hey, everyone who’s not our age, this is what it’s like!’”
The publication of Beautiful World, Where Are You is not the only thing Rooney’s fans have to look forward to this year. A few months ago, Hulu announced it was going forward with an adaptation of the author’s debut, Conversations with Friends, reuniting Rooney (who’s helping pen the show’s scripts) with co-writer Alice Birch and Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson.
When Hulu’s sultry take on Normal People appeared last April, the world was deep in the throes of a global pandemic, and many saw the show as a kind of outlet for pent-up angst and desire. Who knows what the world will look like when these new works make it to us. But it’s an absolute certainty that Beautiful World, Where Are You, and Conversations with Friends will keep the heated cultural conversations going.
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