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All booksLiterary fictionBeautiful World, Where Are You
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Literary fiction

Beautiful World, Where Are You

by Sally Rooney

Quick take

Four friends—young, confused, in search of hope—seek answers to life's biggest questions in & out of each other's arms.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_WellKnownAuthor

    Famous author

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FemaleFriendship

    Female friendships

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Writerlife

    Writer's life

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NoQuotationMarks

    No quotation marks

Why I love it

Jerrod MacFarlane
BOTM Editorial Team

Since bursting onto the literary scene with her debut Conversations with Friends and even more incisive sophomore effort, Normal People, Sally Rooney has dazzled readers and become a global phenomenon. Her whip smart stories of 20-somethings muddling through reach new heights in Beautiful World, Where Are You with its unnerving and witty portrait of relationships that constantly evade sure footing. Friends become lovers, become colleagues, and then sometimes double back. And through it all, the novel grapples with how compelling these elements of our lives can be despite their seeming triviality in the face of a world that just might be on the brink of disaster.

At the center of Beautiful World, Where Are You is the friendship of Alice and Eileen. When the novel begins, Alice is a novelist facing ambivalence about her career’s success; so, she picks up her things and promptly heads to Rome with a man she’s just met through Tinder. Eileen on the other hand is reconnecting with an ex after a recent breakup. These two women, struggling towards growth and self-understanding, exchange lengthy emails shared throughout the book about topics both personal and political. While these missives give us insights into these characters and their depths, it’s their friendship and mercurial romances that drive the narrative along.

There is much to be concerned about in the world right now: an ongoing pandemic, escalating climate crisis, multiple overlapping humanitarian crises. They are too heavy to bear alone. But if there is anything that we may have learned from this past year, and that this sparkling novel deftly highlights, it is that we can handle quite a lot and still find great beauty in the world through our most important and intimate relationships.

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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?

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Get an early look from the first pages of Beautiful World, Where Are You.

Member thoughts

All (4279)
All (4279)
Love (1958)
Like (1653)
Dislike (668)
4322 ratings
  • 45% Love
  • 38% Like
  • 15% Dislike
  • New York, NY

    I absolutely LOVED this. The lack of real dialogue takes a little while to get back into the rhythm of, but by the end it’s seamless. I couldn’t put this down for the final part of the book. Adored it

  • Houston, TX

    Rooney has a knack for creating such interesting characters, even though they aren’t always likable. I loved this book for the characters despite the long winded rants between the two main characters

  • Reno, NV

    Sally Rooney does it again! The book follows Alice and Eileen, two friends who write to each other throughout the novel. The book has everything you would expect from Rooney — love, sex & friendship.

  • Woodland Park , CO

    Rooney lives up to the hype, she is masterful. The book has so much suspense based only on realistic portrayals of young couples navigating love and life. Cool style and philosophical substance. True.

  • Dartmouth, MA

    Sally Rooney did it again. She perfectly encapsulates what it is to be figuring out life from Eileen and Alice’s points of view. I always heavily relate to the way her characters think and process.

  • Turlock , CA

    The characters in this book may not be people you like as much as in other books, but they are decidedly real. It is a pleasure to read about real people with real problems, written so delightfully.

  • Salt Lake City, UT

    Absolutely adored this. A spot-on critique of this last lighted room before darkness that we currently live in. Unique writing style, but if you liked Normal People, you’ll LOVE Beautiful World.

  • West Lebanon, NH

    Sally Rooney always blows me away like her last book I wasn’t sold in the beginning but the way she weaves a story and ties her loose ends is so satisfying. This book explores friendship and woah

  • Salem, OR

    I continue to eat up Rooney's beautiful stories over and over and over again. This one is no exception; her prose feels like it's reaching into my soul. All over-embellishment aside, it's gorgeous.

  • Bayport, NY

    Absolutely loved this book. My first Sally Rooney and I will definitely be back for more. Writing style took some time to get used to but the prose and beautiful character building were worth it

  • Charlotte, NC

    Sally Rooney does it all for me. The emails between the two female protagonists and their existential crisis and banter was such an interesting way into their minds outside of their day to day.

  • Memphis, TN

    I enjoyed Sally Rooney’s writing immensely, as expected. Although it felt pretentious at times, the writing was deeply introspective and existential, while remaining accessible and mundane.

  • Chicago , IL

    I love Sally Rooney, even if now it is suddenly unpopular to love her. I love the banter, and the intricacies within the protagonists' friendship. Lots to talk about her, in my opinion.

  • Boston, MA

    This is the best Rooney book yet in my opinion. Wonderful characters, beautiful portrayal of friendship, romance and people trying to figure out what really matters in life. I loved it!

  • Menlo Park, CA

    Sexy, relatable, and emotional. The best of Rooney. The dialogue is very 20-30 something relatable, there is dreamy romance, and of course troubled but happy relationships. Delightful.

  • Mount Rainier, MD

    Not a Sally Rooney die hard fan, but this is the first one to live up to the hype for me. Poignant societal observations and beautiful prose drive this book. A must for Millennials.

  • Valdosta , GA

    No one writes character dialog like Rooney. It's as if she's been eavesdropping all the places you go (or want to go) and tapped into your head. I would read any book she writes.

  • Portland, OR

    I loved this book!! Beautiful writing and a brutally honest, compelling story about two friends living, loving, screwing up, and beginning again. Very relatable and moving.

  • Chicago, IL

    I've said it and will say it again--Sally Rooney is the Jane Austen of our time. She is so perceptive of manurisms and relationships and just overall a great story teller!

  • Grosse Pointe Park, MI

    I like Sally Rooney’s quirky writing. I hated the characters, but I was fascinated by them at the same time. Plotless, quirky… but yet, I still liked it!

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