POND by Claire-Louise Bennett


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First published in Ireland, Bennett’s meditative debut—rigorous, poetic, and often very funny—captures the rich inner life of a young woman living a mostly solitary existence in a remote coastal town.

An interior portrait in 20 fragments—some short-story length, others just a few sentences—this collection abandons conventional notions of plot altogether. Nothing much “happens” here; there is essentially no “action”—at least, not by any traditional definition of the term. Instead, Bennett presents a series of exquisitely detailed, deeply subjective, frequently hilarious monologues on the business of being alive. Despite her constant presence, we know very few biographical facts about our nameless heroine. But we see the way her mind works, and we get to know her—deeply, even intimately—through her observations. In “Morning, Noon & Night,” she recounts bits and pieces of a past romance (“We didn’t get along very well but this had no bearing whatsoever on our sexual rapport which was impervious and persuasive and made every other dwindling aspect of our relationship quite irrelevant for some time”); in “Control Knobs,” she chronicles—among many, many other, less tangible things—her quest to get the broken knob on her “decrepit cooking device” fixed. “Stir-fry” is just two bare sentences. “I just threw my dinner in the bin. I knew as I was making it I was going to do that, so I put in it all the things I never want to see again.” It feels both crass and inaccurate to reduce any chapter to a single “about”; each fragment is simultaneously hyperspecific and sweeping. Short as it is, this is a demanding read: with its sharp, winding sentences, it's not a book that washes over you but a book that you work for. But the attention pays off: quietly striking, Bennett’s debut lingers long after the last page.

Strange and lyrical with an acute sense of humor.

Pub Date: July 12th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-399-57589-1
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2016


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