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Hulu's 'Normal People' is a faithful adaptation of Sally Rooney's hit coming-of-age novel

Those who haven't read the book won't be missing much, but reading it while watching the show would be an entirely different experience
'Normal People' (Hulu/BBC)
'Normal People' (Hulu/BBC)

Under normal circumstances, book adaptations don't work so well — just ask any 'Harry Potter' fan. It's difficult to depict the inner workings of characters' progressions and translate into the screen the feelings those words induce. However, Hulu's and BBC's adaptation of Sally Rooney's 2018 trailblazing novel, 'Normal People' manages just fine.

'Normal People' follows the complicated relationship of Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) and Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) as they move from school to college and beyond. Marianne and Connell come from different social classes — while Marianne's family is rich, Connell's mother works for Marianne's family as their housemaid.

In school, Connell is popular — he is smart, he plays football, and he effortlessly makes friends. On the other hand, Marianne is outspoken, brash, and considered odd by the peers in her school. 

However, Connell and Marianne find themselves drawn to each other, and though they break up in school, they tend to go back to each other in college and aftward.

As Rooney serves as a co-writer for the series with Alice Birch and Mark O'Rowe, many of the scenes in the series are exactly the same as in the books. There are sequences that play out exactly as written in the book — something that readers might appreciate.

'Normal People' (BBC/Hulu)

However, there are a few differences here and there. For instance, while Connell is shown breaking down after the Debs and calling Marianne to tell her that he loves her and that he is sorry, the same is not written in the book. Yes, he goes through being low because of his guilt over what he did to Marianne, but he doesn't talk to her again until they meet each other in college.

Similarly, a scene towards the end of the book where Connell and Marianne talk about Sadie — a friend of Connell's who encouraged him to apply for an MFA in New York and therefore knew about it — is not present in the show. This may not be a scene most readers would miss — it was frustrating that the two would let in a third person come in between them and so it's relieving to see that this is not an issue in the series.

There are other moments too which have been modified in minor ways — we see more interactions between Marianne with her friends and family as well as Connell with his friends and family — and of course, their subsequent relationships with other people. 

However, it is for the reason that most of the scenes play out as they are written in the books that the adaptation feels more heartfelt. Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones both do wonderfully well to bring to life characters that are undoubtedly dear to many.

As far as adaptations go, 'Normal People' is one of the most faithful ones out there — and one that readers won't begrudge has been turned into a visual medium. Those who haven't read the book won't be missing much, but reading it while watching the show would be an entirely different experience.

All episodes of 'Normal People' are released on Hulu on 29th April.