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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

He only has a few classes every week anyway, so he fills the rest of the time by reading. In the evenings he stays late in the library, reading assigned texts, novels, works of literary criticism. Not having friends to eat with, he reads over lunch. At the weekends when there’s football on, he checks the team news and then goes back to reading instead of watching the build-up. One night the library started closing just as he reached the passage in Emma when it seems like Mr Knightley is going to marry Harriet, and he had to close the book and walk home in a state of strange emotional agitation. He’s amused at himself, getting wrapped up in the drama of novels like that. It feels intellectually unserious to concern himself with fictional people marrying one another. But there it is: literature moves him. One of his professors calls it ‘the pleasure of being touched by great art’. In those words it almost sounds sexual. And in a way, the feeling provoked in Connell when Mr Knightley kisses Emma’s hand is not completely asexual, though its relation to sexuality is indirect. It suggests to Connell that the same imagination he uses as a reader is necessary to understand real people also, and to be intimate with them.

You’re not from Dublin, are you? says Gareth.

No. Sligo.

Oh yeah? My girlfriend’s from Sligo.

Connell isn’t sure what Gareth expects him to say to this.

Oh, he replies weakly. Well, there you go.

People in Dublin often mention the west of Ireland in this strange tone of voice, as if it’s a foreign country, but one they consider themselves very knowledgeable about. In the Workmans the other night, Connell told a girl he was from Sligo and she made a funny face and said: Yeah, you look like it. Increasingly it seems as if Connell is actually drawn towards this supercilious type of person. Sometimes on a night out, among a crowd of smiling women in tight dresses and perfectly applied lipstick, his flatmate Niall will point out one person and say: I bet you think she’s attractive. And it will always be some flat-chested girl wearing ugly shoes and disdainfully smoking a cigarette. And Connell has to admit, yes, he does find her attractive, and he may even try to talk to her, and he will go home feeling even worse than before.

Awkwardly he looks around the room and says: You live here, do you?

Yeah, says Gareth. Not bad for campus accommodation, is it?

No, yeah. It’s really nice actually.

Whereabouts are you living yourself?

Connell tells him. It’s a flat near college, just off Brunswick Place. He and Niall have one box room between them, with two single beds pushed up against opposite walls. They share a kitchen with two Portuguese students who are never home. The flat has some problems with damp and often gets so cold at night that Connell can see his own breath in the dark, but Niall is a decent person at least. He’s from Belfast, and he also thinks people in Trinity are weird, which is reassuring. Connell half-knows some of Niall’s friends by now, and he’s acquainted with most of his own classmates, but no one he would have a proper conversation with.