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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

Last summer she read one of Connell’s stories for the first time. It gave her such a peculiar sense of him as a person to sit there with the printed pages, folded over in the top-left corner because he had no staples. In a way she felt very close to him while reading, as if she was witnessing his most private thoughts, but she also felt him turned away from her, focused on some complex task of his own, one she could never be part of. Of course, Sadie can never be part of that task either, not really, but at least she’s a writer, with a hidden imaginary life of her own. Marianne’s life happens strictly in the real world, populated by real individuals. She thinks of Connell saying: People are a lot more knowable than they think they are. But still he has something she lacks, an inner life that does not include the other person.

She used to wonder if he really loved her. In bed he would say lovingly: You’re going to do exactly what I say now, aren’t you? He knew how to give her what she wanted, to leave her open, weak, powerless, sometimes crying. He understood that it wasn’t necessary to hurt her: he could let her submit willingly, without violence. This all seemed to happen on the deepest possible level of her personality. But on what level did it happen to him? Was it just a game, or a favour he was doing her? Did he feel it, the way she did? Every day, in the ordinary activity of their lives, he showed patience and consideration for her feelings. He took care of her when she was sick, he read drafts of her college essays, he sat and listened while she talked about her ideas, disagreeing with herself out loud and changing her mind. But did he love her? Sometimes she felt like saying: Would you miss me, if you didn’t have me anymore? She had asked him that once on the ghost estate, when they were just kids. He had said yes then, but she’d been the only thing in his life at that time, the only thing he had to himself, and it would never be that way again.

By the start of December their friends were asking about Christmas plans. Marianne still hadn’t seen her family since the summer. Her mother had never tried to contact her at all. Alan had sent some text messages saying things like: Mum is not speaking to you, she says you are a disgrace. Marianne hadn’t replied. She’d rehearsed in her head what kind of conversation it would be when her mother did finally get in touch, what accusations would be made, which truths she would insist on. But it never happened. Her birthday came and went without a word from home. Then it was December and she was planning to stay in college alone for Christmas and get some work done on the dissertation she was writing on Irish carceral institutions after independence. Connell wanted her to come back to Carricklea with him. Lorraine would love to have you, he said. I’ll call her, you should talk to her about it. In the end Lorraine called Marianne herself and personally invited her to stay for Christmas. Marianne, trusting that Lorraine knew what was right, accepted.