I’ve read the latest hit a few months ago from Claire Keegan, the Booker Prize nominated Small Things Like These and that was fantastic. Now this one is so beautiful that I was awestruck for a while.
Keegan does a very good job in the abbreviated form. The intricacy of relationships between men and women is examined in this upcoming collection of three of her previously published short stories, "So Late in the Day," "The Long and Painful Death," and "Antarctica." Every character in these tales yearns for freedom, camaraderie, or perhaps a fleeting personal connection. And Keegan pays exquisite attention to detail as he deftly subverts the expectations of these individuals.
Her words are deliberate without being pretentious. It's enjoyable to read Keegan's ability to write concisely about a character's emotional condition or their physical surroundings. She also does such a natural job of capturing Irish speech and dialect.
These were really wonderful stories. Without a doubt, I would read them again. Fans of Keegan's work should also find a lot to like in this succinct but impactful collection. All I could have asked for was more stories!
Thank you NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for this wonderful ARC.
So Late In The Day
Just wonderful. This woman is one of Ireland’s greatest living writers and everyone should read every work she has written. I’ve bought the hardback version for my Books That I Loved Shelf and have bought copies to give as gifts as well. I love her. Long may she keep sharing her art with the world.
Short and subtle, each of the three stories here showcase quiet writing that has quite the impact. I only wish these stories were longer, complete, but that’s the beauty of the brevity of them - they leave you wondering, drawing your own conclusions as to what happens next.
Thanks to Grove Press and NetGalley for the ARC.
In this book we have three different stories, three stories that have common ground in terms of people’s behavior. These three short stories, shorter than “Small Things Like These” and “Foster” are focused on the dynamics between man and woman, male and female, provoking the reader to think deeper in every single case and reflect on today’s society. I think it’s safe to say that Claire Keegan is now one of my favourite authors. The wonders she does with short length stories like these, is incredible. With her simple yet appealing writing style, she puts a subject under her microscope and brings it forward enough for everyone to see.
The first story of this book is the one that we read in the title, “So Late in the Day”. Here we meet Cathal, who faces a long weekend as his mind agitates over a woman with whom he could have spent his life, had he behaved differently. We get to know about him and about the fact that he was about to get married, but his bride-to-be abandoned him. As the story progresses and we g0 through Cathal’s memories of their lives together, we realize that he is not the innocent person we’d thought him to be, in the beginning of the story. We meet him at the office, where he tries to avoid everyone. He goes in such length so as to drink his coffee without sugar, only so that he does not have to engage in conversation with a colleague. He doesn’t want to be pitied. But when his younger in age boss, tells him to leave early for the day, he seizes the opportunity and runs through the stairs in a hurry.
Soon we get to know how he met Sabine and how their relationship evolved. As he reflects on their relationship, we can see what he did wrong and that’s when he realizes too, that if he was a better person towards Sabine, he would not have lost her. They would still be together. But he was acting like his father and like any other man, thinking only about himself.
We only see Cathal’s view on this one and we meet Sabine only through his eyes and the dialogs he recalls. But even that is enough. It is clear that by the end of the story, the hero realizes that his behaviour towards women is what cost him his loneliness.
The second story is called “The Long and Painful Death” and this time the protagonist is a woman. she is an author that decides to live for a few days that the Irish House that the German author Heinrich Böll used to live on Achill Island. There, enjoying the same view as the great author had enjoyed in the past, she is determined to focus and progress on her story. However, her plans are being interrupted by a man who, German as he is, believes he has a better reason to be in Böll’s cottage, than that woman ever would. Better yet, because he is a man! He kind of invites himself to visit the cottage at a time that suites him best, but is rather uncomfortable for the woman. His visit is set for the middle of her day, when should would have been writing for hours. So it makes sense that she is rather irritated by this visit, going to some length to be hospitable and polite, only for the visitor to think himself entitled to all she had to give up or prepare for his visit.
It’s a very good example of a case where men believe themselves to be better or superior to women. The have certain expectations and when the women try to meet them out of politeness, they get scolded. I also really enjoyed the landscape as Keegan described it in this story. It made me feel I was actually there.
The third and last story in this book is called “Antarctica”. This one is the darkest of the three stores in the book and one for which I cannot say much, so as to avoid spoilers. In this story, a married woman plans a weekend trip in the city in order to buy Christmas gifts for the family. At least this is how she justifies the trip to the city. What she really want to to, is to experience how it feels to sleep with a man, other than her husband. What started as a mere curiosity ends up really badly. The story is short, shorter than tge previous two, however, the feelings it evokes are strong.
Thank you to NetGalley & Grove Atlantic for an advance copy of this book. The views expressed are my personal and honest opinion.
Luminous writing describes these short stories, put together in a short book titled "So Late In The Day". These stories share a common theme of the differences between men and women, and how some men use and abuse the women in their lives. I found the stories to be both haunting and sad, but also beautiful. Keegan's descriptions of her native Ireland are like painting a picture with words, whether she is describing the many colors of he sky and the sea, or the bright white hen and purple fuchsia one of the characters encounters during a walk. The first story, also the title of the collection is about a man who wanted a women only if he didn't have to give anything back. Cathal met the beautiful French woman Sabine and was drawn to her personality, cooking and beauty. But after asking him to pay for a bunch of cherries she was going to make into a tart, he realized that she might sometimes expect him to treat (she had previously paid for all of their food). When Sabine attempts to move in he is horrified to learn that she expects to bring clothing and a few possessions to his home. After she leaves, he is partly relieved but also lonely and realizes he may have missed his chance.
The second story, "The Long and Painful Death:" was my favorite; a woman is awarded a writer's residency in a famous writer's cottage. She has trouble knowing where to start so spends some time walking, swimming and enjoying the solitude. Then an angry German professor shows up at her door, demanding to know why she was awarded this residency and insisting she is a waste of resources. The woman gets revenge on the professor in the most delicious way. The last story is "Antartica" and it is a bleak study of a wife and mother who feels trapped in her life. She decides to go the city for weekend, intending to perhaps meet a man for a one night stand, but finds herself in a dangerous spot. I will reed anything this author writes and thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this ARC in exchange for a review.
I normally love Claire Keegan but these short stories were a little too much for me. I will keep reading her in the future but I much prefer her previous two novellas to this one.
The Way I See You
Recently Claire Keegan has topped my revered author list. “Small Things Like These” is maybe the best thing I have read in years and I found her novella, “Foster,” later made into the poignant film, “The Quiet Girl,” to be a moving and powerful work. Her writings, concise and potent, reverberate long after being read.
Her latest collection consists of two short stories and one novella, taken from different times in her career. The first one, “So Late in the Day,” brings us an Irishman man so sexist and self-centered that he unwittingly chases away his fiancé on the eve of their marriage. We do get some insight into him– but any chance for sympathy is obliterated by his stubbornly misogynistic predisposition.
In “The Long and Painful Death,” we find a woman who has been awarded a stay at a prestigious historic residence for writers. A German professor intrudes on her time only to “educate her” that many other more worthy applicants could be in her place, people who would take the opportunity seriously. After tossing him out, she turns his jealousy around and channels it into her writing.
Finally, “Antarctica '' tells the story of a “happily married woman” who always wondered how it would be to sleep with another man. She feels time running out, this is something she needs to do while she is young enough. A bad match is made and she must contend with the consequences of tangling with an obsessive partner.
This trio of stories center on individuals pushed into loneliness by the vacuum of failed relationships. The men here are artifacts of obsolete biases, while the women, particularly in the first two stories, are strong enough to reject the expectations placed on them and leave behind the antiquated notions of what is acceptable.
Claire Keegan is a superb writer. Her works, while compressed and to the point, never leave things shorthanded. The three stories in this collection may be open-ended… but they are not incomplete. Highly recommended, as is everything I have read of hers.
Thank you to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Lyrical, haunting collection of short stories from the great Claire Keegan. The third one was unexpected and thematically quite darker than the others, but all were addictive; I couldn't put this book down until it was finished.
Claire Keegan is an amazing writer who seems to effortlessly bring about stories that impact the reader with a minimum of prose.
Three tales of women making choices that may not end the way they expected or hope. Each character is well developed and within just a short amount of writing, the reader is immediately hooked. Any thing by Keegan is a worthwhile read.
Claire Keegan’s prose is so unique. I really enjoyed these three short stories ( actually I remember reading Antarctica years ago in translation to the Spanish, and that’s when I fell in love with Keegan’s writing)
In these three stories she writes about human condition and the twists and turns of human relationships with their many nuances, in her signature minimalist style that reminds me a lot of Raymond Carver’ s stories. The prose and the language is direct but the undercurrent is ambiguous and as readers we have the certainty that something else is happening, something for which words are not enough. I will read everything she writes and I really hope she keeps her books short and effectual.
Claire Keegan is a must-read for me. Every word is important and smart and valuable to the story. I loved every story and these characters will stay with me for a long time. "So Late in the Day" will stick with me as I've thought about the simplicity of story yet complexity of the relationship evolution. I loved it. Brava once again to Keegan. Reading this is a masterclass.
Thank you to Grove Atlantic for the early review copy via Netgalley.
Three short stories. 128 pages. I read the collection in mere hours and have been haunted by it ever since. “So Late In The Day” made me aware, “The Long and Painful Death” made me frustrated, and “Antarctica” left me blinking in shock. Each story gave me 300 pages of emotion. While I didn’t enjoy the stories themselves, I appreciate the mastery that provided them.
I need to read more Keegan now.
Absolutely classic Keegan, she can do no wrong :D
She continues to be a master class in telling a stories within such a short amount of words, and yet you don’t need more - every word and sentence is carefully placed and well thought-out, the emotional resonance is there.
She’s subtle, sneaking her story inside you without you even realising, but there’s a dark underbelly that she exposes too, unmistakably challenging social norms and misogyny.
Brilliant as always, I want more!
With less room for the superfluous, Keegan is a master of short story telling. The simplicity of her succinct prose is quietly devastating. I savour her selection of words (always), but these stories left me with a furrow between my brows.
A compilation of previously published stories, they share a theme of problematic gender relations and an indictment of the patriarchy. The content choice / inspiration gets an A+ from me, but I did not feel particularly moved by any of these stories. I wanted this triptych to make me feel and the only thing I felt was slightly confused.
Perhaps my expectations were too high after reading Smally Things Like These. Keegan is quoted in the Gaurdian as saying “I do think no story has ever been read properly unless it’s read twice. So it’s a longer book, you see, than you think it is, because it needs to be read twice. Double the pages.” Maybe this one just needs a second read? 🙃
Oh my absolute goodness. I am shooketh by this whole story. I was just so captivated by every part of this story. Claire Keegan is such a gift.
Claire Keegan's prose is sparse and perfectly so. I enjoyed these stories as I was reading them and they lingered in my brain long after.
This is my 3rd Claire Keegan book. The best way to describe her books is “quiet.” This does give it a unique quality. However, I feel as though this one was so quiet it was a little forgettable. I always enjoy her books while I read them but none of them really stick with me. However, the writing is still beautiful and I’m sure for the right person very thought provoking. I would still recommend people check her out!
Claire Keegan's So Late in the Day is a short collection of stories, said to be on the theme of men and women relating. The first story is about a man dealing with his lapsed engagement, the second is about a female writer who meets a rude critic, and the third about a housewife looking for a one-night-stand. Each story touches on misogyny, especially in Ireland. While I found all three stories compelling to read, I was left with a sense of bleakness at the end. This is in sharp contrast to how I felt about her novella, Foster.
This collection is very well-written and starkly examines some hard truths about modern male/ female relationships. However, it was not necessarily what I thought I would get from Keegan, and I had trouble with the way she ended the final story.
Overall, I will still be interested in what Claire Keegan does next, but I won't be buying this one as a gift for my friends.
So Late in the Day is a drastically different novel than Claire Keegan's last book and I ate it up. I really enjoyed the three different stories in this tiny novella. The last story was an absolute cliff hanger. I would suggest going in blind if you are a fan of stories that can shake you up a bit in just a few pages and are also a fan of the author. This book will make you sit back and really think on a few different topics.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley.
Claire Keegan is an autoread author for me and I am glad I got the chance to read this short story collection. Keegan seems to be making a commentary on misogyny in Ireland through three very different characters. As always, Keegan’s writing is quiet but impactful. My only criticism is that there weren’t more stories - the digital version is less than 100 pages.