Will she or won’t she? Last summer, that’s what thousands of British readers spent their holidays wondering about Frances, the narrator of Sally Rooney‘s accomplished (if forgivably uneven) debut, Conversations with Friends. Frances is a wry, taciturn student who gets tangled up in an on-off affair with an older man. In keeping with the novel’s distinctly 21st-century approach to this well-trodden plotline, the answer was: yes and no.

For the past few months, Rooney’s massed admirers have been asking the same question about her. Normal People – the difficult second novel – has turned up pretty quickly, and is in the running for the Booker Prize. But has Rooney (pictured right) gone one better?…