Is Love & Virtue Australia’s Answer To Normal People?

The debut novel explores sex, power, consent, and friendship.
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The newly released novel Love & Virtue is Australia’s answer to Sally Rooney’s breakthrough hit Normal People, but not for the reasons you would expect.

WATCH: Normal People Trailer (Official).

Sex, feminism, and power are themes threaded throughout Diana Reid’s literary debut, a campus novel that tackles female friendship and Australia’s institutional classism.

The contemporary work of fiction has been deemed clever and inquisitive for its analysis and questioning of universities and young women.

In Australia, stories about women in their late teens and 20s have been largely dismissed by our popular culture.

Although we have plenty of talented and young female writers, historically, it’s often blokey men represented and supported in media.

Shows like Puberty Blues are forever iconic, but its 70s Australia setting is far removed from the world young women live in today. 

Of course, this year, ABC iView’s hit show Why Are You Like This was an unapologetic comedy about two millennial women in their 20s and their gay roommate.

It was an instant breath of fresh air for young people in this country, not even just for women, but for LEGBTQIA+ people who are rarely written with the nuance required to feel fully seen in pop culture down under.

Sex, feminism, and power are themes threaded throughout Diana Reid’s literary debut. (Credit: Instagram)

On the literary scene, Love & Virtue is making a more serious (due to its intense themes) take on life in this country as a female university student.

To summarise the novel, it follows two intelligent and bold women called Michaela and Eve who become friends during their first year at an elite residential Sydney private university college.

The girls who live in adjacent rooms are different from each other as one is popular and confident and the other is an unsure people pleasure.

But during O-week, something happens during a drunken encounter that will force the friends to navigate consent, power, friendship, privilege, and betrayal.

The rise of campus novels has been a global success from Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and of course, Normal People, so to read a version of this genre set in our own backyard will nudge at our growing desire to see our own lived experiences in the art we love.

Despite the exclusivity of the book’s setting, every young Aussie can relate to the struggles of the classism bubbling silently under the surface of our nation’s larrikin persona by either witnessing it, falling victim to it, or embracing it.

Both The Sydney Morning Herald and the podcast by Schwartz Media called The Culture have compared the book to Normal People.

Why Are You Like This was so successful that Netflix picked it up. (Credit: ABC)

“Reid is a long-time fan of the campus novel, books, such as Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Sally Rooney’s Normal People, that draw the reader into strict hierarchies, realms where secret codes are upheld by insiders and survived by outsiders,” wrote Sydney Morning Herald author Neha Kale.

We can compare the main character’s Connell and Marianne’s vastly different social statuses to Eve and Michaela. However, the extent of their relationship’s imbalance is yet to be seen (So, stop what you’re doing and get a copy!).

Love & Virtue also analyses sex and consent, which is timely considering the overdue discussions about sexual violence which have come out this year.

From Chanel Contos’ Instagram poll, which revealed hundreds of testimonies shared by Sydney schoolgirls about their experiences with sexual assault, and her eventual petition for better sex education in schools, to Brittany Higgins and Australian of The Year Grace Tame, the conversations about consent have never been louder.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a high school student, about to finish year 12, or are studying at university, Love & Virtue will speak to your lived experiences as a young woman trying to feel seen within our mostly 40-year-old male-skewed pop culture.

“I want them to be more confused about ‘right and wrong’.” (Credit: Hulu)

As for what Diana expects readers to get out of the book, she told Nine Honey that she wants people to question their judgement.

“Okay, so it doesn’t sound fun. But I want them to be more confused about ‘right and wrong’. I want them to feel at the end that they are less sure in their judgments of the characters and of the situations than they were at the outset. Having said that, I appreciate the being like this book will be confusing is not a very good sell, so I also hope that is they laugh and are entertained,” she told the publication.

Love and Virtue is out now, and you can find it at your favourite book haven (AKA bookshop).

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