Two Stories

By Megan Thomas

This is one of the umbrellas under which two of Sally Rooney’s short stories live – you may have read one or the other of the stories separately. The version of Two Stories that I “read” was the audiobook, which includes Mr Salary and Colour and Light.

Mr Salary, narrated by Aoife McMahon and originally published as part of the Faber Stories collection, tells the story of family friends Nathan and Sukie – Nathan remembers Sukie being born. Many years later, after her father dies and she’s left with nowhere to live, she moves in with him, Mr Salary. They’re both old enough by this stage to make their own decisions, and we watch as the two of them wrestle with their feelings as they begin skirting around the evident power dynamics that exist between them.

Colour and Light, narrated by Sam O’Mahony and originally published in The New Yorker, showcases a brief interlude in the lives of Aidan and Pauline, and which I think is similar to Rooney’s latest novel Beautiful World Where Are You in terms of the dynamic of their relationship. Pauline is a successful screenwriter and Aidan a hotel receptionist, and as they edge closer to a sexual relationship, we realise that what they really need from each other is to feel seen in a fragmented and confusing world.

These two stories perfectly capture the momentary, often inappropriate, regularly awkward experiences of attraction between people, both of a sexual nature and just of human connection, which is arguably what Sally Rooney does best across her novels. I finished them on a long earphoned walk around St James’ Park.


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