The most important Irish locations in the Sally Rooneyverse
Sally Rooney may have singlehandedly ushered in the return of the Event Novel — and inadvertently launched the concept of the Modern Millennial Writer — but she also introduced a new set of readers to the intricacies of her native Ireland (and gave her fellow countryfolk endless bragging rights). With her third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You (out Sept. 7), the 30-year-old author builds her Irish literary empire with a story set in Dublin and beyond. Below, learn the significance of her literary landmarks — because it's not like this with other countries.
The market town in County Mayo, on the western fringes of Ireland, is where Rooney was born in 1991. Her mother ran a community arts center, and her father was a technician for a telecom company. While the town itself isn't written into her novels, the region is central to Beautiful World, Where Are You, which follows a group of four interconnected young people as they navigate life and love in a pre-pandemic Ireland. The author's socialist upbringing in the region laid the foundation for the Marxism that plays out in many of her characters.
It's Ireland's capital, sure, but Dublin is also home to Trinity College — and Trinity College (one of Europe's most elite) is to the Rooneyverse as Hogwarts is to Harry Potter (read: very significant). It's the author's alma mater — she studied English — and where she chose to send her protagonists in Conversations With Friends and Normal People. Two of Beautiful's main characters attend an unnamed college in Dublin that closely resembles Trinity, and even Lenny Abrahamson, who directed six episodes of Normal's BBC adaptation, is an alumnus. "Life would be different then," Rooney writes of the time when Normal character Connell is considering Trinity. "He would start going to dinner parties and having conversations about the Greek bailout."
On the page, Connell and co-protagonist Marianne grow up in the fictional town of Carricklea; on screen, the seaside Sligo (a tourist destination even before the show) stands in for the small, mostly working-class enclave where the complicated couple first fell in love. Production set up shop at several real-life businesses in the area, including Brennan's Bar, in nearby Tubbercurry, which played host to the New Year's Eve party scene in episode 12.
"I didn't think Nick had culchie friends," a man tells Conversations narrator Frances — using a slang term for someone from rural Ireland — when she mentions that her parents live in this picturesque riverside town. Frances grew up in a suburb of Dublin, making the insinuation as incorrect as it is judgmental, but Ballina shows up often in Rooney 's novels. In Beautiful, Alice, a young and highly successful novelist, rents an isolated house as she grapples with the negative byproducts of literary fame (sound self-fulfilling?).
Normal People's now-iconic beach scene is unique to the screen version of the love story, but the stunning filming location is ready and waiting for Rooneyheads to make the requisite pilgrimage. Alexa, play "Hide and Seek," by Imogen Heap.