Thu, Jan 14, 2021 – 5:50 AM
A LITTLE more than two years ago, novelist Sally Rooney seemed poised to take a well-earned victory lap. At 27, she had published two bestselling and acclaimed novels, Conversations With Friends and Normal People, which was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.
Critics anointed her as “a writer of rare confidence” and “the first great millennial novelist.” Rooney wasn’t so sure about the hype – or her long-term prospects as a novelist. “I have no idea if I’ll write another book,” she told the Irish Independent in 2018. “Maybe I am one of those people who writes two novels in their 20s, then never writes anything else again.”
Thankfully for her many devoted readers, Rooney gave it another try. In September, Farrar, Straus and Giroux will release her new novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, which follows four young characters in Ireland as they navigate the pressures of work and relationships against the backdrop of political turmoil and fears about their economic futures. “The title itself speaks to some of the book’s themes, it’s an unanswered question,” Mitzi Angel, the publisher of FSG, said.
“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.”
The new novel is likely to be one of this year’s most anticipated books. Rooney’s first two novels have sold more than 1 million copies in the United States alone. Ms Angel acquired US rights to the new novel from the Wylie Agency as part of a two-book deal. FSG declined to provide details about the second book. Ms Rooney was previously published in the United States by Hogarth, a Penguin Random House imprint. In moving to FSG, a division of Macmillan, Ms Rooney is reuniting with Ms Angel, who, as the publisher of Faber & Faber from 2015-18, published Ms Rooney’s first two novels in Britain. Ms Angel acquired Rooney’s books for Faber & Faber after prevailing in a seven-way auction.
Ms Rooney became a literary sensation with the release of her 2017 debut novel, Conversations With Friends, which she wrote while studying for a master’s degree in American literature at Trinity College in Dublin. Narrated by a Trinity student named Frances who is grappling with the realities of adulthood, the novel drew accolades from prominent writers like Zadie Smith, Curtis Sittenfeld and Celeste Ng.
She followed with Normal People, a novel about the tortured friendship and romance between Marianne and Connell, who meet as teenagers from different socio-economic backgrounds and whose social fortunes diverge further when they too end up at Trinity. The novel cemented Ms Rooney’s reputation as a literary talent and was adapted into a television series.
Beautiful World, Where Are You also examines romantic relationships between young adults – but the characters are older, and the problems that occupy them are more global and entrenched. Set largely in Dublin and a nearby town, it centres on four characters – a novelist named Alice, her best friend Eileen, and their respective love interests, Felix and Simon. In conversations and email exchanges, the friends dissect their love lives and their fears about the future of the planet.
“Her books are always political, because they’re about how people need to figure out how to live together, how should we behave,” Ms Angel said. “Those questions are present in the book, and she asks them without earnestness, but with a great deal of sincerity.” NYTIMES