Normal People, review: a rare pleasure

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Does it matter if you have read Normal people, Sally Rooney’s novel on maturity, before seeing the BBC TV version? What matters is that you were once young. This is a story about first love and growth, and it captures that moment in life so perfectly that watching it takes you there. It makes you want to be 18 again, and thank God you’re not, often at the same time.

The protagonists are Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), in their final year of school in the West of Ireland. Marianne is lonely, miserable and taken to task by her classmates, but lively and fiercely intelligent. Connell is effortlessly popular but more shy and bookish than his friends.

Both tracks are great and their chemistry is palpable, but it’s Mescal’s performance that stands out, perhaps because in the first two episodes, he has more to convey; Connell is decent but weak in the face of peer pressure, and less able to express his feelings than Marianne. It’s a remarkable television debut.

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