Beautiful World, Where Are You

Farrar. Sept. 2021. 368p. ISBN 9780374602604. $28. F
Having met in college in Dublin, Eileen and Alice have been best friends for years. Alice is a critically acclaimed novelist and world traveler, while Eileen continues to work at a Dublin office. Alice relocates to Ballina on Ireland's west coast, where she meets Felix, a local laborer, while Eileen spends time with childhood friend Simon. As these four people explore their relationships with one another, Eileen and Alice exchange emails about ecological collapse, political cynicism, consumerism, economic inequality, civic decline, and religious and aesthetic experiences. While these fraught themes complicate Alice and Eileen's friendship as well as their respective relationships with Felix and Simon, they do not discourage them from determining that love can prevail even in the midst of chaos.
VERDICT Rooney’s third novel deals with some of the emotional dynamics and ideas explored in Conversations with Friends and Normal People but expands and enriches them by depicting human dramas against vast historical backdrops, amplifying art’s essential status in human life. Once again, she has written a masterly and significant work of fiction that is both traditional and innovative.
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