BOOK REVIEW: Mr Salary by Sally Rooney

So, this year Faber are turning ninety years old and don’t they look good for it!

To celebrate their ninetieth year Faber are releasing a landmark series of individual volumes in stunning paperbacks, showcasing some of the masters of the short story form within a range of varying styles and genres. So, dust off your bank card, clean some space on the bookshelf as these appear to be a must have for all short story fans, writers and well anyone who loves a stunning story.

I pre-ordered a copy of Sally Rooney’s Mr Salary over the Christmas break (since loving her novel Normal People) and was counting down the days until it was finally available on my Kindle. As soon as it was, I dived right in.

Mr Salary is a fabulously deep and rich tale about love, an unfrequented love, a mysterious and dangerous love, which is so opulent and pure that it exists despite the carnal instincts which try to derail its purity, ebbing and flowing beneath the surface. Because this love is about a craving that can’t be acted upon. Mr Salary is about a love that bores deep into the bones, like a cancer, spreading within, corrupting the tissue, radiating its perfect destruction, until it’s consumed you and nothing can stop its all consuming need to be loved, being poured fourth and acted upon.

‘My love for him felt so total and so annihilating that it was often impossible for me to see him clearly at all. If he left my line of sight for more than a few seconds, I couldn’t even remember what his face looked like. I had read that infant animals formed attachments to inappropriate things sometimes, like falcons falling in love with their human breeders, or pandas with zookeepers, things like that.’

The story focuses on the life of Sukie, a daughter to a dead mother and an addict of a father, her studying in Boston is cut short and she returns to Dublin, due to the ill health of her father and the seriousness of his diagnosis. On her arrival back in Dublin she is picked up by her closest friend Nathan (who we find out later has been tarnished with the name Mr. Salary by Sukie’s begrudging father, for the way he cares for Sukie). Nathan is part of Sukie’s extended family, he’s ten years her senior, but Rooney expertly weaves into the story a complicated history between the two of them, a deep rooted history that gets opened up like a scab you can’t help but itch. I won’t go into much more detail as I believe I would be doing the story a discredit, but I would highly recommend you go out and purchase a copy and discover it for yourselves.

Mr Salary is a tremendous piece of fiction writing, which I would say is quite possibly perfect in every way. It’s not just Rooney’s meticulous choices of vocabulary, the metaphors or the memorable similes – Rooney has been able to orchestrate her words into a delightful symphony that takes the reader on a remarkable journey that builds to a quite beautiful crescendo, making Mr Salary a story they will never forget.

‘Nothing inside my body was trying to kill me. Death was, of course, the most ordinary thing that could happen, at some level I knew that. Still, I had stood there waiting to see the body in the river, ignoring the real living bodies all around me, as if death was more of a miracle than life was. I was a cold customer.’

Rooney writes in an arrestingly beautiful style, with a delicate and sincere touch. Every part of Mr Salary is a work of artistic excellence, from the storytelling to the execution of such wonderfully considered and constructed prose – it is a shear delight, to behold such beauty within a story, a story which is both enrapturing whilst showcasing what a talent and mastery Rooney has of the short story form.

I was enraptured by Mr Salary from start to finish, and it is quite possibly one of the finest short stories I have ever read…it is perfection in the short story form.

Mr. Salary is published by Faber & Faber for more information about their Faber Stories and 90th Anniversary click here.

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Sally Rooney

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Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from an MA at Trinity College in 2013. Her work has appeared in GrantaThe White ReviewThe Dublin ReviewThe Stinging Fly, Kevin Barry’s Stonecutter and The Winter Pages anthology. Conversations with Friends is her first novel.

Follow her @sallyrooney

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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