Normal People ending explained: How BBC Three TV series’ finale differs from the book

Unpicking the show's ending, and how it compares to Sally Rooney's novel. **CONTAINS SPOILERS**

Normal People

Normal People has become a smash hit for the BBC, as viewers under lockdown opt to binge-watch the utterly relatable – and at times heart-breaking – series about two young people who fall in and out of love.

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Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) meet at school, before reconnecting during their first year at Trinity College, Dublin. Theirs is a will-they-won’t-they love story played out over 12 episodes – but how does the show end?

Read on for everything you need to know about Normal People’s ending, and how it compares to Sally Rooney’s bestselling book of the same name.

How does the TV series Normal People end? 

The show charts the highs and lows of Marianne and Connell’s relationship, and at the start of the final episode the pair are finally together, following the penultimate episode in which Connell takes Marianne away from her abusive brother, and her mother severs contact with her.

Normal People
BBC

The couple flourish in each other’s company, even attending a school reunion party on New Year’s Eve – a scene that highlights just how much Connell has matured, as he proudly slips his arm around Marianne (at the beginning of the series, he was too embarrassed to acknowledge her in front of his school peers).

Connell also steps in as editor of a literary magazine at Trinity College, and has become a campus star. However, his writing prowess leads to an offer to study creative writing in New York – and Marianne encourages him to take up the offer and pursue his dream.

In the show’s final scene, he asks her to go with him, but she declines, telling him that she enjoys her life in Dublin.

Both acknowledge that Connell might stay on in New York after his Masters, but both know how much the other has impacted their life – they love each other, but realise that their relationship may have run its course.

How does the book Normal People end?

normal-people

The show remained largely faithful to the book, which also ended on a bittersweet note.

However, a key difference is that in the book, the reader doesn’t know whether Connell will definitely take up the offer to study in New York – instead, it ends on a line of dialogue, where Marianne tells him that he should go and that she’ll “always be here”.

Unlike the show, where Connell tearfully tells Marianne that he will go to New York, in the novel we’re left to guess at whether or not he decides to go in the end.

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You can watch all of Normal People on BBC iPlayer now