Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > Entertainment

“Normal People”- The Differences Between The Book & The Series

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hofstra chapter.

“Normal People” is a book written by Sally Rooney that revolves around the turbulent relationship of the two main characters, Marianne and Connell. In 2020, the book was made into a 12 episode series that was released on BBC, and now can be found to stream on Hulu. While Sally Rooney did co-write the first six episodes of the series, there are a few noticeable differences between the series and the book. 

Here are the main changes:

Connell and Marianne in High School

The beginning of the book and series is set with Connell and Marianne in their senior year of high school. They start as peers who barely know each other, and eventually become immersed in an intimate, secret relationship. In the book, much of their relationship takes place in private places where they know nobody will find them, such as Marianne or Connell’s room. However, in the series, they are shown in the high school and in other public places much more often. There is a scene in the series of them walking past one another in the hallway and exchanging a secret look because of the relationship they are hiding. 

Connell’s phone call to Marianne after the Debs 

One of the most heartbreaking moments in the book and series is when Connell decides not to invite Marianne to the Debs ball. He is suspicious that people know about their relationship, and he decides that he cannot take her to an event where most of their grade will be. Marianne is greatly hurt by this, and breaks all contact with Connell. In the book, we learn that he leaves a message on her voicemail after the Debs ball, but we do not know what he says. However, in the series, the whole scene is shown. Connell tells Marianne that he misses and really loves her, and then breaks down into tears after hanging up. This scene lets the viewers see a vulnerable and desperate side of Connell, which makes his character more complex. 

Gareth’s role 

Ironically, Gareth is how Connell and Marianne reconnect with each other in college. Gareth, who is Marianne’s boyfriend at the time, invites Connell to a party at his apartment. The two run into each other when Gareth is taking Connell around to meet people at the party. In the book, after the party and a couple other interactions, Marianne and Gareth’s relationship fizzles out and he isn’t mentioned again. But in the series, Gareth is a central character for a couple episodes, making him a bigger part of the story than in the book. Marianne is shown breaking up with Gareth in the series, which is never discussed in the book. 

Marianne and Peggy’s Friendship

Peggy is supposably one of Marianne’s best friends in college. However, their relationship is more complicated than that in the book. In the book, Peggy is more like a frenemy, as she is often obnoxious and careless, and does not support Marianne when she needs it. However, in the show, the toxicity of their relationship is not shown as many scenes with Peggy are cut. Marianne has an unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend Jamie at one point, and Peggy makes a ton of remarks about how great he is despite knowing his behavior. They do not show this in the series, which takes away an important understanding of Peggy and Marianne’s dynamic from viewers. 

The interaction between Connell and Miss Neary

The interaction between Connell and his old high school English teacher, Miss Neary, is one of the most disturbing scenes in the book. A very drunken Connell sees Miss Neary at a club, and he goes back to her house where she attempts to sexually assault him. It is an extremely uncomfortable scene because the reader knows that she was his teacher in high school, and she tries to push him to do something he doesn’t want to do. However, in the series, they show the pair making out outside the club and then Connell leaving when he becomes uncomfortable. In addition, Connell tells Marianne about what happens in the book and she threatens to slit Miss Neary’s throat if she ever tries anything with Connell again. This response, while intense, shows Marianne’s deep care for Connell despite their bumpy relationship. In the series, Connell never tells Marianne about what happened. 

The final scene

Arguably, the biggest difference between the book and the series is the way each ends. In the book, Connell receives an invitation to a year-long creative writing program at NYU, which Marianne did not know he applied to.  While shocked at first, Marianne then encourages him to go, her last lines being “You should go. I’ll always be here, you know that.” But in the series, the ending is more clear. Connell asks her to go with him, and she says she wants to stay where she is. They are both in tears as she tells him not to promise that he’ll be back in a year, because she knows that so much could change for both of them. Connell’s final line is “I’ll go,” and Marianne’s is “And I’ll stay. And we’ll be okay.” This ending, while heartbreaking, gives a distinct end to their relationship rather than keeping the door open, like in the book. 

Lucy Barr

Hofstra '26

Lucy is a sophomore at Hofstra University studying Community Health. She loves Taylor Swift, health and wellness, reading, and Gilmore Girls!