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Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)

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The university scholarships were announced back in April. The Provost stood on the steps of the Exam Hall and read out a list of the scholars. The sky was extremely blue that day, delirious, like flavoured ice. Connell was wearing his jacket and Helen had her arm wrapped around his. When it came to English they read out four names, alphabetically, and the last one was: Connell Waldron. Helen threw her arms around him. That was it, they said his name and moved on. He waited in the square until they announced History and Politics, and when he heard Marianne’s name he looked around to see her. He could hear a circle of her friends cheering, and some applause. He put his hands in his pockets. Hearing Marianne’s name he realised how real it was, he really had won the scholarship, they both had. He doesn’t remember much of what happened then. He remembers calling Lorraine after the announcements and she was just quiet on the phone, shocked, and then she murmured: Oh my god, Jesus Christ.

Niall and Elaine arrived beside him, cheering and slapping his back and calling him ‘an absolute fucking nerd’. Connell was laughing at nothing, just because so much excitement demanded some kind of outward expression and he didn’t want to cry. That night all the new scholars had to go to a formal black-tie meal together in the Dining Hall. Connell borrowed a tux from someone in his class, it didn’t fit very well, and at dinner he felt awkward trying to make conversation with the English professor seated next to him. He wanted to be with Helen, and with his friends, not with these people he had never met before and who knew nothing about him.

Everything is possible now because of the scholarship. His rent is paid, his tuition is covered, he has a free meal every day in college. This is why he’s been able to spend half the summer travelling around Europe, disseminating currency with the carefree attitude of a rich person. He’s explained it, or tried to explain it, in his emails to Marianne. For her the scholarship was a self-esteem boost, a happy confirmation of what she has always believed about herself anyway: that she’s special. Connell has never really known whether to believe that about himself, and he still doesn’t know. For him the scholarship is a gigantic material fact, like a vast cruise ship that has sailed into view out of nowhere, and suddenly he can do a postgraduate programme for free if he wants to, and live in Dublin for free, and never think about rent again until he finishes college. Suddenly he can spend an afternoon in Vienna looking at Vermeer’s The Art of Painting, and it’s hot outside, and if he wants he can buy himself a cheap cold glass of beer afterwards. It’s like something he assumed was just a painted backdrop all his life has revealed itself to be real: foreign cities are real, and famous artworks, and underground railway systems, and remnants of the Berlin Wall. That’s money, the substance that makes the world real. There’s something so corrupt and sexy about it.