However confidently you stride around campus it is difficult to shake off the distinct awkwardness that surrounds all first years, says Sarah Weir, and You and I is the most resonant new novel out there.
In her debut novel, Emily Gillmor Murphy proves herself to be one of very few writers able to capture this feeling of displacement, cutting through the hype of student life to reveal characters brimming with personality and real-life problems.
Endearingly honest and painfully recognisable at times, this bittersweet love story captures the anxieties and complexities of navigating a new life and new loves.
The novel centres on the lives of two students starting at University College and Trinity College, Dublin. Olive is a sweet country girl experiencing city life for the first time, and Tom, a hardened Dubliner and ladies’ man. In this confusing world of university the pairs’ paths cross. It is obvious to Olive that Tom is a seasoned seducer and definitely not her type, but when her family is shaken by a tragic death, it is Tom who stands by her side, despite the fact that his own life is rapidly spiralling out of control. As they struggle to find their feet, Olive and Tom become more drawn to each other but the sparks are diffused when Olive discovers the truth behind Tom’s motives.
Although the frequently cumbersome and overformal dialogue does become irritating, and the ‘good-girl meets bad-boy’ plotline is far from original, the two protagonists and their supporting cast provide more than enough distraction. What Gillmor Murphy wants for in originality, she more than makes up for in depth, and the poignancy and pathos achieved are unbelievably impressive from a very young debut novelist.
You & I may not be as innovative or as captivating as cult-classic One Day, but it is an enjoyable and easy read for a long winter night.
You & I is available now from Transworld.