Book Review: ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You,” by Sally Rooney


In a novelist’s hands, as in real life, technology is what one makes of it. It’s difficult to sell “actual lol” as a brutally emotional and telling line, but Rooney does, capping off a testy text exchange between Eileen and her sister.

Rooney’s people are reflective of their time and milieu — like most convincing characters — and it’s true that some of their qualities will be perplexing to those north of 40. One of these qualities is a generalized concern more earnest and unremitting than any radicalism in living memory. They can’t walk into a convenience store without thinking of “the culmination of all the labor in the world, all the burning of fossil fuels and all the backbreaking work on coffee farms and sugar plantations.”

Rooney is by all accounts plenty earnest herself, but she has the necessary gift of complicating that — even poking fun at it — in her work. In one scene, as the group is about to enter a party to meet…

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