Normal People series vs book: What are the differences to the Sally Rooney book?

Normal People tells the widely-acclaimed story of Marianne Sheridan (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal ) and their interconnected lives. The new 12-part BBC and Hulu series is based on Sally Rooney’s award-winning novel – here’s how close it stays to its source material.

What are the differences to Sally Rooney’s book?

The eagerly-awaited adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People has now dropped in full for fans to watch.

The show follows the events of the book, looking at two people who cannot stay away from each other.

Beginning in the town of Carricklea in County Sligo, viewers first meet Connell and Marianne in their final year as they begin a secret relationship.

This then follows them as they both head to Trinity College, Dublin, and deal with heartbreak, grief and growing up.

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However, some viewers may be wondering how closely the series sticks to the novel.

In most aspects all, the show is very faithful to Rooney’s book and follows almost all of the novel’s events.

This is partly due to the fact Rooney herself was involved in adapting it into television alongside the creators.

Speaking with, producer Emma Norton explained how this gave them confidence in the adaptation.

She said: “Adapting any novel that has a huge following and huge expectations, I guess we were all really conscious on some level of doing justice to the book.

“But we had Sally in the process so we knew that we were keeping the quality of the book.”

However, as with bringing anything to screen, the series had to make some changes to the original novel.

Director and executive producer Lenny Abrahamson revealed how they had to make sacrifices in terms of narrative structure.


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He said: “We initially felt that we were going to follow Sally in that shifting timeline, but in the end the adaptation was more direct.

“We were in the present tense most of the time with a few occasions where we shifted around a bit.”

As well as this, there are some additions to the story as well which, according to Abrahamson and Norton, brought out more from the novel.

This included the added scene of Connell’s heartbreaking phone call to Marianne at the end of episode three.

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Speaking about adding this in, he said: “We did his side of the call which doesn’t exist in the novel.”

As Rooney fans will remember, Marianne deletes Connell’s message before ever listening to it.

Norton explained: “I think what Sally and Alice [Birch, co-writer] were really good at doing in the process were finding little moments in the book that sometimes might have just been a sentence, and expanding it out into a full, sometimes very emotional scene.

“In some respects it may seem different to the book, but almost everything in the show has some little origin in the novel.”

Normal People is available to stream in full on BBC iPlayer as well as airing Mondays at 9pm on BBC One.

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