In Beautiful World, Where Are You we meet two of the characters, Alice (who’s a novelist) and Felix (who works in a warehouse) as they’re meeting each other, on their first date after having messaged each other on Tinder. Later, we’re introduced to the novel’s two other main characters, Eileen (Alice’s best friend) and Simon (Eileen’s close friend/sometimes-lover) as the novel switches focus among them, with chapters of third-person narration about one or two of them alternating with the long emails that Alice and Eileen write to each other, which are partly about their personal lives and partly about art and beauty and capitalism and worries about the future of civilization.

All of which is to say that this is a very Sally Rooney book, and while I wasn’t entirely into it at first, I ended up really enjoying it and feeling emotionally invested in the characters and their choices and their happiness or unhappiness. I like how Rooney writes about friendships and partnerships, the way people converse and relate to one another, the way people move toward or away from one another. (Also, how Rooney writes about sex.) Rooney is great at dialogue, but there’s lots of really wonderful description too—especially in a section where Eileen is at her sister’s wedding and there’s all this great stuff about her past, and her family’s past, and her shared past with Simon, but also elsewhere, like when Alice invites Felix to go to Rome with her, and we get to read about the photos Felix takes as he explores the city on his own while Alice is at literary/press events. (Also from the Rome section, Alice writing to Eileen about the “dark fragrant orange trees, little white cups of coffee, blue afternoons, golden evenings.”) I also am so here for all the passages involving Felix’s dog, and also this, from an email when Eileen is telling Alice about a diary she kept for a while, in which she would write “one short entry each day, just a line or two, describing something good”: “Dry upturned sycamore leaves scuttling like claws along the South Circular Road. The artificial buttered taste of popcorn in the cinema. Pale-yellow sky in the evening, Thomas Street draped in mist. Things like that.”

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