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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

The conversations that follow are gratifying for Connell, often taking unexpected turns and prompting him to express ideas he had never consciously formulated before. They talk about the novels he’s reading, the research she studies, the precise historical moment that they are currently living in, the difficulty of observing such a moment in process. At times he has the sensation that he and Marianne are like figure-skaters, improvising their discussions so adeptly and in such perfect synchronisation that it surprises them both. She tosses herself gracefully into the air, and each time, without knowing how he’s going to do it, he catches her. Knowing that they’ll probably have sex again before they sleep probably makes the talking more pleasurable, and he suspects that the intimacy of their discussions, often moving back and forth from the conceptual to the personal, also makes the sex feel better. Last Friday, when they were lying there afterwards, she said: That was intense, wasn’t it? He told her he always found it pretty intense. But I mean practically romantic, said Marianne. I think I was starting to have feelings for you there at one point. He smiled at the ceiling. You just have to repress all that stuff, Marianne, he said. That’s what I do.

Marianne knows how he feels about her really. Just because he gets shy in front of her friends doesn’t mean it’s not serious between them – it is. Occasionally he worries he hasn’t been sufficiently clear on this point, and after letting this worry build up for a day or so, wondering how he can approach the issue, he’ll finally say something sheepish like: You know I really like you, don’t you? And his tone will sound almost annoyed for some reason, and she’ll just laugh. Marianne has a lot of other romantic options, as everyone knows. Politics students who turn up to her parties with bottles of Moët and anecdotes about their summers in India. Committee members of college clubs, who are dressed up in black tie very frequently, and who inexplicably believe that the internal workings of student societies are interesting to normal people. Guys who make a habit of touching Marianne casually during conversation, fixing her hair or placing a hand on her back. Once, when foolishly drunk, Connell asked Marianne why these people had to be so tactile with her, and she said: You won’t touch me, but no one else is allowed to either? That put him in a terrible mood.

He doesn’t go home at the weekends anymore because their friend Sophie got him a new job in her dad’s restaurant. Connell just sits in an upstairs office at the weekends answering emails and writing bookings down in a big leather appointment book. Sometimes minor celebrities call in, like people from RTÉ and that kind of thing, but most weeknights the place is dead. It’s obvious to Connell that the business is haemorrhaging money and will have to close down, but the job was so easy to come by that he can’t work up any real anxiety about this prospect. If and when he’s out of work, one of Marianne’s other rich friends will just come up with another job for him to do. Rich people look out for each other, and being Marianne’s best friend and suspected sexual partner has elevated Connell to the status of rich-adjacent: someone for whom surprise birthday parties are thrown and cushy jobs are procured out of nowhere.