The 5 key differences between Stan's Normal People and Sally Rooney's book.

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Stan’s new TV show Normal People.

By now, you’ve probably sobbed your way through all 12 episodes of Stan’s beautiful, soul-crushing new series Normal People, and if you’ve read the book, it is likely still on your bookshelf, stained with a few (or a lot) of tears.

TV and movie adaptations always run the risk of being untrue to the book they’re based on, alienating and disappointing fans, but Normal People has premiered to a landslide of positive reviews.

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It had the benefit of author Sally Rooney signing on to help write the screenplay, which helped with the cohesiveness between both forms of her award-winning story. The motto on set, according to the Los Angeles Times, was “the book is the Bible,” after all.

But that doesn’t mean they’re totally identical. There are some key – mostly subtle – differences between the series and the book.

Read on for the main differences between the Normal People book and TV series.

Inner monologues.

normal people
Image: Stan.

In the novel, Sally Rooney delves into Connell and Marianne's innermost thoughts through their inner monologues, which the TV adaption was required to externalise through dialogue.

For example, in the book Rooney wrote, "It occurred to Marianne how much she wanted to see [Connell] having sex with someone; it didn't have to be her, it could be anybody."

In the show, Marianne simply tells him that exact thing: "I kept thinking how much I wanted to watch you have sex. I mean, not even with me.”

Marianne's family.

Image: Stan.

The series shows Marianne's family as cold, and her brother as verbally (and later, physically) abusive. The book delves much deeper into her family life - Alan abuses his sister as a coping mechanism for losing his father, who was also physically abusive.

But in the book, her dad hit both her and her mother. In the series, Marianne tells Connell he never hit her. Her mother is also more cold and neglectful in the book, with no hint of affection.

After watching the TV series, we can assume the trauma of her home life shapes Marianne's issues with self-worth and certain actions in relationships but there is much more detail to shape this in the novel.

For a deeper dive on Normal People, listen to this episode of The Spill.

Marianne's friendships.

The show only really highlights two of Marianne's female friendships, with her university friends Peggy and Joanna.

We're roughly given the idea that Peggy is a 'bad' friend, and Joanna is a 'good' friend, but the book is much more detailed about how co-dependant Peggy becomes on Marianne and why their relationship is toxic.

The show also glosses over Marianne's high school friendship with Karen - the girl who comforted her after the scary incident at the dance. After that, they struck up a friendship which is not really explored in the TV series.


Connell and Marianne's other relationships.

Image: Stan.

The relationship between Connell and Marianne is the centre of Normal People, but their relationships with other people are just as important in their stories to understand how and why the characters grow as people.

In the show, Connell's relationship with Helen is really only seen in relation to Marianne. Helen is always asking about her, and visibly uncomfortable when she watches Connell around her, but in the novel, Connell and Helen's relationship is able to be fleshed out a lot more. She is more conservative, and Connell believes she brings out the best in him.

Meanwhile, Marianne's relationship with Gareth, her first college boyfriend, is hardly featured in the book beyond when he introduces her and Connell at the party which leads to them reconnecting.

During Marianne's year abroad in Sweden, her and Lukas' relationship ends only when he tells her he loves her during a BDSM-style photoshoot, after which she insists he unties her or she'll call the police, which we do not see in the series.

Connell's encounter with Miss Neary.

We also watch Connell kiss his former teacher Miss Neary outside a nightclub during a visit home to Sligo, but in the book this is a much less consensual encounter at her house, which leads Marianne to say she'll kill Miss Neary if she ever goes near Connell again.

Ultimately, Stan's Normal People is overwhelmingly true to the novel it is based on, and it's no wonder the show has won over the most die-hard Sally Rooney fans.

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Feature image: Stan.