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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

Connell looked at Sadie across the table, her bangles knocking together on her wrist.

Bit hard to fit in, to be honest, Connell said.

The writer nodded again. That mightn’t be a bad thing, he said. You could get a first collection out of it.

Connell laughed, he looked down into his lap. He knew it was just a joke, but it was a nice thought, that he might not be suffering for nothing.

He knows that a lot of the literary people in college see books primarily as a way of appearing cultured. When someone mentioned the austerity protests that night in the Stag’s Head, Sadie threw her hands up and said: Not politics, please! Connell’s initial assessment of the reading was not disproven. It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about. Even if the writer himself was a good person, and even if his book really was insightful, all books were ultimately marketed as status symbols, and all writers participated to some degree in this marketing. Presumably this was how the industry made money. Literature, in the way it appeared at these public readings, had no potential as a form of resistance to anything. Still, Connell went home that night and read over some notes he had been making for a new story, and he felt the old beat of pleasure inside his body, like watching a perfect goal, like the rustling movement of light through leaves, a phrase of music from the window of a passing car. Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything.

 

Four Months Later (JULY 2014)

Her eyes narrow until the television screen is just a green oblong, yawning light at the edges. Are you falling asleep? he says. After a pause she replies: No. He nods, not taking his eyes off the match. He takes a sip of Coke and the remaining ice clinks softly in his glass. Her limbs feel heavy on the mattress. She’s lying in Connell’s room in Foxfield watching the Netherlands play Costa Rica for a place in the World Cup semi-finals. His room looks the same as it did in school, although one corner of his Steven Gerrard poster has come unfixed from the wall and curled inwards on itself in the meantime. But everything else is the same: the lampshade, the green curtains, even the pillowcases with the striped trim.

I can run you home at half-time, he says.

For a second she says nothing. Her eyes flutter closed and then open up again, wider, so she can see the players moving around the pitch.

Am I in your way? she says.

No, not at all. You just seem sleepy.

Can I have some of your Coke?

He hands her the glass and she sits up to drink it, feeling like a baby. Her mouth is dry and the drink is cold and flavourless on her tongue. She takes two huge mouthfuls and then hands it back to him, wiping her lips with the back of her hand. He accepts the glass without looking away from the TV.