Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

“Are you having second thoughts? she said. If you get tired of walking you can always abandon me and turn back, I'm quite used to it. The walk, that is. Not being abandoned. I might be used to that as well, but it's not the sort of thing I confess to strangers.”


Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. 

They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

I have been so excited for Beautiful World, Where Are You since I heard about its release earlier this year. Having read Normal People and Conversations With Friends, I was pining to read the latest from Sally Rooney.

I'm also from Ireland, so there's something about the way she writes that just completely captivates me. I remember when I first read Normal People, I loved it so much I went out and purchased copies for my mum and a few friends who all adored and cherished it just as much as I did. I'm so grateful to Knopf Canada for the advanced reader copy of this one, it felt like a true gift being able to read this book early. 

Right off the bat, on the opening pages, I could picture Alice and Felix sitting together in the bar, freshly acquainted with one another. Funnily, I found my Irish accent coming back as I read along, reading to myself as I was imagining them chatting together. Reading the book was like watching a movie, each scene put into play perfectly and described so vividly.

Rooney's prose similar to her previous books which I had hoped for. 

“I'm probably thinking about all this now because I saw Aidan randomly on the street the other day and immediately had a heart attack and died. Every subsequent hour since I saw him has been worse than the last.”

The story captures a gorgeous friendship between two girls who the reader has the pleasure of getting to know over the course of dozens of lengthy emails exchanged between them throughout the book. Both on completely different paths, and wise beyond their years, but still sharing such a special bond. I felt myself becoming truly absorbed by their lives. 

“So of course in the midst of everything, the state of the world being what it is, humanity on the cusp of extinction, here I am writing another email about sex and friendship. What else is there to live for?”

Beautiful World, Where Are You, was a lovely read. I finished it too quickly and only wanted more. Selected as one of Indigo's most anticipated releases, and one of the most hyped books of the year, this one won't let you down. It's absolutely brilliant. 

I highly recommend checking out Sally's other books that I mentioned. I've included a short synopsis of both, with links to GoodReads.  

Connell Waldron is one of the most popular boys in his small-town high school who seems to have it all. The one thing he doesn't have though, is money. Marianne Sheridan, a classmate of Connell's, has the opposite problem. Marianne is plain-looking, odd, and stubborn, and while her family is well-off, she has no friends to speak of. There is, however, a deep and undeniable connection between the two teenagers, one that develops into a secret relationship.

Frances is a coolheaded and darkly observant young woman, vaguely pursuing a career in writing while studying in Dublin. Her best friend is the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi. At a local poetry performance one night, they meet a well-known photographer, and as the girls are then gradually drawn into her world, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and handsome husband, Nick. But however amusing Frances and Nick’s flirtation seems at first, it begins to give way to a strange—and then painful—intimacy.

Photo by Kalpesh Lathigra

Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from Trinity College. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Dublin Review, The White Review, The Stinging Fly, and the Winter Pages anthology. 
She was the winner of the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award in 2017. She was also the editor of the Stinging Fly in 2018 and a Cullman Center Fellow at the New York Public Library from 2019–20. Rooney was nominated for an Emmy for her work on the television adaptation of Normal People, which was broadcast on CBC Gem in 2020.

Beautiful World, Where Are You is available for pre-order (releasing September 7th) at Indigo and on Kobo. Check Penguin Random House CA for additional retailers.

Thank you to Knopf CA for my copy in exchange for an honest review!