With a month before publication date and notices about it throughout my local Waterstones, it is a fitting moment to thank Faber & Faber and Sally Rooney for giving me a sneak peek at Chapter One of the eagerly anticipated Beautiful World, Where Are You?
Firstly, I love the colours here! The blue and yellow really work well together and the rounded cut out shapes that reveal the yellow are great – reminding me more than a little of the jigsaw puzzles my daughter had when she was really young!
It is a similar palette and imagery we saw with Normal People and Conversations with Strangers, too
I am perhaps less enamoured of the change in font – I’m not keen on those rounded letters, if I am honest, but then anything other than Times New Roman, Garamond or Calibri I find challenging! The three books together, however, would look great on any book shelf!
Also it is absolutely worth checking out the video cover on Faber’s website, which is gorgeous (and hopefully plays below).
Title: Beautiful World, Where Are You?
There is something keening about this title, an aching sense of loss. It is delicately evocative – don’t we all wish we had a beautiful world? – and full of pathos – where has that beautiful world gone? Beautiful language use in its simplicity.
I do also love a title which is a question – and wish the novel had been published in time to feature in a Top Ten Tuesday where the theme was book titles that are questions – a surprisingly hard theme.
Alas, for me, I do hear Shaggy’s voice calling “Scooby Doo, where are you?” when I read it.
Chapter One, which was provided by Faber & Faber, took 8 minutes to read and opens with
“A woman sat in a hotel bar, watching the door.”
It is clearly set in Ireland – as one would expect of Rooney – and recounts a less than successful date between Alice, a writer who has recently moved into the town, and Felix, a local man who works in “a warehouse outside town”. Drinks are shared, the relations between them somewhat testily explored. As with Normal People, even on this first date communication was less than easy and Alice in particular seems difficult and little defensive. However, she is willing to invite Felix back to her house, the Rectory we discover, and to see her bedroom…
The language is beautiful in its simplicity, and also somewhat distances us from Alice and Felix. Rooney is really excellent at showing rather than telling – there is exquisite dialogue and no internal monologue – and on only one chapter it is hard to feel that I got to know the characters. But then, you don’t after a single date, do you?
Will be see Felix and Alice again in the novel? I suspect so and I predict that their less than stellar first date will develop into a relationship. And I am definitely intrigued by Alice.
I also like the fact that these characters seem older than those in Normal People. Old enough to have careers and to be beyond the Millenial label.
The final line of the chapter is a little unsettling as it directly addresses the reader with an imperative invitation:
“Follow her eyes now and notice the bedroom door left open, a slice of white wall visible through the banister posts.”
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 worry about sex and friendship 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?
One month to go and I am definitely waiting outside our local bookshop to buy this on publication day!
Page Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publication Date: 7th September 2021
Available: Amazon, Faber & Faber