For our travelers, avid readers, and hopeless romantics at heart; let’s dive into the chief settings of Normal People.
Sally Rooney’s award-winning novel Normal People swept the United States as a point of cultural fascination, following the tumultuous love story of Irish teenagers Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron. These hopelessly intertwined dual protagonists navigate the transition to adulthood, interpersonal relationships, mental health, and their love for one another in a narrative decidedly coming-of-age. The story is universal: we’ve all been smitten teenagers before. The novel was recently adapted into a television series broadcast on both BBC and Hulu, critically acclaimed and exceedingly well received.
County Sligo, Ireland
Marianne and Connell’s budding romance begins in the fictional town of Carricklea, located in County Sligo of northwest Ireland. With postcard-worthy landscapes and gateways to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Dartry Mountains, County Sligo is the perfect place to stop and smell the roses – or, in Marianne and Connell’s case, to let budding romance come to bloom. The pair spend their high school years in County Sligo, bouncing from pubs to school fundraisers to one another’s homes, their secret bond near-magnetic.
Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Academic and intellectual prowess bind Connell and Marianne – even once they’ve parted ways (have they, really?) as the two attend Trinity College for English and Politics respectively. As Ireland’s most prestigious university, Trinity College has long stood as a pillar of Dublin’s rich cultural heritage in both history and infrastructure. Its breathtaking architecture and collegiate atmosphere draw prospective students and adventurous travelers alike. For literature lovers like Connell, the Trinity College library is home to more than 5 million books -including the priceless illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells. Whether traipsing the beautiful campus or studying between the stacks, Trinity College is ripe with potential for story’s beginnings; or, in Marianne and Connell’s case, picking up where they left off.
Friends once again and harboring feelings for one another, Marianne and Connell have both received scholarships from Trinity College––leveling their socioeconomic playing field. Connell joins Marianne, summering in Trieste, Italy, where vulnerability rekindles their connection. This picturesque port city is marked as a prime summer destination for its stunning Neoclassical architecture and proximity to the Adriatic Sea. Trieste is recognized especially for its rich and historical love affair with coffee––the leading coffee port in the Mediterranean. In the true spirit of Trieste, Marianne has a fresh pot brewing at her summer cottage by the time Connell and his friends arrive.
Marianne and Connell’s friendship sustains (as does the romantic yearning, for Rooney’s readers) as she ventures to study abroad in Lund, Sweden. Home to the Lund Cathedral, a crown jewel of Sweden’s Romanesque architecture, and The University of Lund’s lovingly kept botanical garden, travelers can expect to experience tranquility amongst the streets of Lund. Quaint, artistic, and ripe with museums for browning, Lund is a getaway destination for those looking for cultural immersion. Marianne’s time in Lund and the less-than-savory artist she dates there are vehicles through which Rooney delves ever deeper into the topic of mental health: highlighting the parallel experiences and struggles faced by Marianne and Connell.
New York City, United States
Love to hate it or hate to love it, the conclusion of Normal People is heralded by Connell’s acceptance to a New York City MFA program for Creative Writing. Reunited once more with Marianne, with a tenuous stability that mirrors their previous togetherness, she encourages him to take the acceptance and attend––despite the distance from her. New York City, a cosmopolitan hub of art, culture, and commerce, is known throughout the world for its hustle and bustle. From the MoMa to Fifth Avenue, New York City is a traveler’s paradise, and starkly different from the serene, rural settings we’ve seen thus far in Normal People. Perhaps a nod to the next chapter of Connell and Marianne’s story and the changes they’ve experienced. One sentiment rings true at the closing of the narrative: Marianne and Connell’s connection knows no bounds, across both age and beautiful destinations.