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Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Literary fiction

Beautiful World, Where Are You

by Sally Rooney

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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

Synopsis

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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Free sample

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

1

A woman sat in a hotel bar, watching the door. Her appearance was neat and tidy: white blouse, fair hair tucked behind her ears. She glanced at the screen of her phone, on which was displayed a messaging interface, and then looked back at the door again. It was late March, the bar was quiet, and outside the window to her right the sun was beginning to set over the Atlantic. It was four minutes past seven, and then five, six minutes past. Briefly and with no perceptible interest she examined her fingernails. At eight minutes past seven, a man entered through the door. He was slight and dark-haired, with a narrow face. He looked around, scanning the faces of the other patrons, and then took his phone out and checked the screen. The woman at the window noticed him but, beyond watching him, made no additional effort to catch his attention. They appeared to be about the same age, in their late twenties or early thirties. She let him stand there until he saw her and came over.

Are you Alice? he said.

That’s me, she replied.

Yeah, I’m Felix. Sorry I’m late.

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Why I love it

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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Member ratings (7,282)

  • MaryCate L.

    Pacific Palisades, CA

    This book took me on an emotional RIDE! The metaphors, the description, the intelligent witty life musings. It’s just so good. Also, Simon + Eileen just may be my fav fictional “couple” of all time

  • Maggie G.

    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

  • Amelia S.

    Brooklyn, NY

    Look, it’s my least favorite Sally Rooney book. The letters were annoyingly pretentious and the characters were a bit underdeveloped. But the “beautiful” moments, realism, the intention of it all.

  • Celia H.

    San Francisco, CA

    Omg Sally, again! Maybe it’s because she’s a rare millennial author born a year before me, but there’s something so relatable, so real about how she writes. I feel like I’m right there with them.

  • Leah J.

    Gilbert, AZ

    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

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