With this, and her previous novel, ‘Conversations With Friends’, Sally Rooney appears to have cornered the market in people talking, and not talking, in rooms (as well as people saying what they mean, and, more pertinently, not saying what they mean). This time our two star-crossed teens are Connell and Marianne who have grown up in the same small town in Sligo, Ireland. Marianne’s family are dysfunctional but rich, while working-class Connell is being brought up by his loving single mother who works as a cleaner at Marianne’s house. Connell and Marianne become lovers in high school but break up after they both win a place at Trinity College in Dublin. Each chapter of their story jumps us forward several months as Rooney deftly draws us into their circuitous orbits with controlled and assured prose in which every word carries significant weight. And while themes such as class, privilege and domination are skilfully woven into the narrative, she also keeps her eyes on the prize, which, in this case, is a tender portrait of two people who are damaged in their own particular way.