Cover Image: So Late in the Day

So Late in the Day

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I always struggle to get invested in short stories but each of these really rooted themselves in my head. I can’t stop thinking about them.

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Unsurprisingly, I loved So Late in the Day. All three stories were wonderful. Claire Keegan's writing style is just so perfect. Her stories touch on some dark, difficult topics but somehow still feel almost comforting, Antarctica was the most surprising and my favorite story, I was not expecting that ending! Highly recommend this and all of Keegan's work!

Thank you NetGalley and Grove Press for the e-ARC of So Late in the Day in exchange for my honest review.

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Three stories that really pack a punch!

“So Late In The Day” – The title story tells the story of Cathal, an Irishman who has misogyny bred in his very bones. He becomes engaged to a woman but his true nature rises its ugly head in time for her to leave him shortly before they were to be wed. There was one powerful scene in this story that I will never forget. It involved Cathal and his family around the breakfast table. Readers will know the scene I’m referring to…

“The Long And Painful Death” – This story features a writer who has travelled to the home of Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll as a sort of writer’s retreat. Her stay is interrupted by a German academic.

“Antarctica” – tells the story of a wife and mother who travels to the city to go Christmas shopping. She entertains the thought of being unfaithful to her husband and finds a man to have sex with. Unfortunately she chose the wrong man…

Powerful, powerful writing. Expertly crafted for maximum impact on the reader. Claire Keegan has done it again!

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I really enjoy Keegan's writing, but in this book her prose sounded especially stilted. It really detracted from the reading experience.

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These short stories were such a joy to read. I especially loved the third one, which let a low level of dread build into something more. It’s really Keegan’s writing that is the jewel here: simple yet evocative, it’s sparsely written enough that you are paying careful attention to each word. She nailed some truths about being human. I left the stories feeling seen.

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I loved Claire Keegan's previous two releases, FOSTER and SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE, so I jumped at the chance to review SO LATE IN THE DAY, her newest collection of 3 short stories about the relationships between women and men. Those who have read Keegan before will be familiar with the close distance she brings the reader to the characters, and the details she captures in each scene to describe the characters.

My favorite of the three stories was the titular SO LATE IN THE DAY, in which the protagonist Cathal proceeds through his workday while reflecting on the parallel trajectory of his relationship with Sabine - with an ending that is not unexpected and yet satisfying. In THE LONGER AND PAINFUL DEATH, a writer takes a weeklong retreat at a seaside home of a German writer, where she interacts with an unwanted guest. In ANTARCTICA, a married woman plans a weekend affair which slowly unravels into more than she expected.

In all three stories, Keegan masterfully guides the reader through the narrators' headspace, and traces their interactions with other characters in sometimes unexpected ways - the plots creep sinuously along until you realize you're somewhere other than when you started, much as sometimes occurs in reality. Fans of her previous work will find much to like, but note that the tone in these stories was darker and more discomfiting than the two previous works of hers I'd read.

Thanks to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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SO LATE IN THE DAY: STORIES OF MEN AND WOMEN is a collection of three short stories by Claire Keegan.

Keegan is an exquisite writer who can capture nuanced relationships. In Keegan's sparse words, she conveys a depth that begs for closer examination. Characters say one thing but readers pick up on the reality. There is tension and anxiety, loss and wonder.

My favorite in this collection is the opening story, where the book gets its title.

Flawed characters take on the mantle of truth, revealing what we might all be capable of, for good or for ill. These stories can be lessons to us, if we dare reflect on who we truly are.

Keegan was unknown to me until quite recently, but I am a convert and now seek her out, knowing the experience will force me to pause and slowly read, trying to capture her insights into human behavior.

(I received a digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.)

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Keegan is a genius. These stories are slightly darker, more sinister than her latest novel Foster, but still measure up in size (small) and impact (large).

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Claire Keegan's minimalist writing style creates compelling narratives in the book So Late in the Day. She is an autobuy author for me for a reason. Recommended!

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Claire Keegan is a gifted writer who can be depended upon to say a lot in few words. These three stories of relationships are no exception and all were delightful in their own way.

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Claire Keegan is gifted at writing short works that pack a punch. So Late in the Day is a collection of three short stories, each one telling the story of a relationship between a man and a woman. All three stories left me feeling uncomfortable, but all for different reasons. She captures (mostly) mundane interactions between people with complexity and insight.

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So Late in the Day: Stories of Men and Women by Claire Keegan is the most recent collection of the author’s short stories comprising three of her previously published works. Even though I had already read two of the three short stories in the collection, I was more than happy to read them again. That’s the beauty of Claire Keegan’s work. Every reread provides something new to ponder upon.

In the first story So Late in the Day (4/5), we meet the protagonist, Cathal, in the course of his routine workday. The date is a significant one (which is revealed later) and throughout the day his thoughts often drift to Sabine, the woman with whom he had been in a relationship. As he reflects on the relationship – the highs and the lows- he is compelled to assess how his attitude toward Sabine and women, in general, contributed to the end of their relationship.

In The Long and Painful Death (4.5/5), we meet a thirty-nine-year-old writer in residence at the seaside home of Heinrich Böll. When she meets a German professor who insists on visiting the property, her interactions with him ( though not entirely pleasant) just might inspire the direction of the story she is currently writing and much more.

The final story, Antarctica (4.5/5), revolves around a married woman who plans a weekend intending to experience what it would be like to sleep with another man. As the story progresses, we follow her as her brief tryst turns into a situation she had not expected.
“As a child, she had been told that hell was different for everyone, your own worst possible scenario.”

Revolving around themes of loneliness, regret, commitment, fidelity and self-perception, these stories will stay with you long after you have finished reading. Complex characters, sparse prose, minimal melodrama, sharp observations on the human condition and plenty of food for thought – what more could we ask for in a short story? I can’t wait to read more from this talented author!

Many thanks to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for the digital review copy of this book. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. This collection was published on November 14, 2023.

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Keegan, who's proven herself to be a wonderful writer, presents three short tales of unhappy people.
The only fault I can find is that I wanted them all to be longer.

A lovely but melancholy read.

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This collection of three previously published short stories focuses on the relationships between men and women and what it is to be human: to love, lose, regret and long for something other than what we have. Claire Keegan always delivers a perfectly formed short story, which perfectly captures the characters, their personalities, attitudes and flaws, and needs no further elaboration or explanation.

In the titular story ‘So Late in the Day’, Cathal is nursing his regrets and reflecting on how he lost Sabine, the woman he planned to spend his life with. His reflections on his childhood allow us to see how small events have led to his misogyny and disregard for women.

’The Long and Painful Death’ tells of a female writer who has been awarded a writing residency in the house of Heinrich Böll. She is annoyed when a German writer turns up requesting a tour of the house, but graciously arranges a time to let him visit later that day, even baking a cake to have with their tea. He turns out to be an unhappy man, mean and small-minded, but also a catalyst for the writer to reflect on her life and what she wants from it.

The final story 'Antarctica’ features a (mostly) happily married woman with children, who occasionally likes to step outside her normal life for a little excitement. However, in this tale she gets more than she bargained for.

These three stories in this short compilation form a perfect triptych with similar themes, as the interactions between imperfectly real men and women play out, with plenty of food for thought

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EXCERPT: She looked at the date on the paper, turned out the lights and lay back in the light of the fire. There she took deep breaths and slowly let many things pass through her mind. She thought of the men she had known and how they had proposed marriage and how she had said yes to all of them but hadn't married one. She felt great fortune, now, in not having married any of these men and a little wonder at ever having said she would.

ABOUT 'SO LATE IN THE DAY': A triptych of stories about love, lust, betrayal, misogyny, and the ever-intriguing interchanges between women and men.

In “So Late in the Day,” Cathal faces a long weekend as his mind agitates over a woman with whom he could have spent his life, had he behaved differently.

In “The Long and Painful Death,” a writer’s arrival at the seaside home of Heinrich Böll for a residency is disrupted by an academic who imposes his presence and opinions.

And in “Antarctica,” a married woman travels out of town to see what it’s like to sleep with another man and ends up in the grip of a possessive stranger.

Each story probes the dynamics that corrupt what could be between women and a lack of generosity, the weight of expectation, the looming threat of violence.

MY TOUGHTS: Claire Keegan portrays the complexities of human relationships with apparent ease. She notes the little moments that shape our memories and our desires. There are not many authors who can portray people so vividly in so few words and pages, but Claire Keegan does it beautifully. Her writing is thought provoking, and I found myself thinking about each story long after I had finished it.

Easily read in an hour, Keegan kept me entranced and satisfied.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#SoLateintheDay #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Claire Keegan didn’t read much as a child. In her home in southeast Ireland, where her family ran a sheep, pig and cattle farm, there were just a couple of books around the house — an illustrated edition of the Bible, and a cookbook, she recalls.

“I’m not sure that growing up without books was a bad thing, because I had to use my imagination,” she said. “Otherwise I might have just stuck my head in a book.”

As it turned out, Keegan made a career out of her imagination.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic, Grove Press for providing a digital ARC of So Late in the Day: Stories of Men and Women by Claire Keegan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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Thank you to Net Galley, the author, and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

SO LATE IN THE DAY
The title story came to slay. Cathal has recently been left by his fiancée, Sabine. We're taken through the progression of their relationship through his eyes, gleaning the ways in which his internalized misogyny soured things between them.

"He had looked at her then and again saw something ugly about himself reflected back at him, in her gaze."

Honestly? Good for her.

THE LONG AND PAINFUL DEATH
An unnamed woman has arrived at Böll House for a two-week writer's retreat. However, the freedom to write and take in the sights around her and, ultimately, decide how she'd like to spend her time is infringed upon when a German literature professor shows up, demanding to view the house. She puts off his visit, discomforted that this stranger is imposing on her schedule and tries to reframe the situation on her own terms. However, when he returns, he disparages the way she uses her time, ultimately claiming that she and other residents of the house are undeserving to occupy it.

The woman finds an outlet to channel her frustrations with this man, as well as other men she has encountered. Ultimately, it comes back to an idea mentioned in the previous story:

"You know what is at the heart of misogyny? When it comes down to it? It's simply about not giving."

ANTARCTICA
All three of these stories are, as the title would indicate, focused on gender roles and power dynamics. This was no exception, though I will say it felt markedly differently from the previous two. A married woman goes out of town, seeking an unprecedented "thrill" to sate her curiosity. When she strikes up what is meant to be a brief, close-ended fling with a man from a bar, she soon discovers the vulnerability in doing so. This took a very dark turn, but fully achieved its purpose.

Overall: Claire Keegan is one of my new favorite authors. This collection, along with everything else I've read by her, is excellent.

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Although quite different than her other US published books, this one was well written as usual and interesting throughout.

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Claire Keegan is an excellent writer - her style is economical but emotionally powerful. This book collects 3 of her short stories having to do with fraught relations between men and women. The stories feature damaged men of varying degrees of misogyny, with the women trying to live their lives with and around them. The first two are very good - memorable and insightful. The last one is less successful: it seems to be more of a psychological nightmare than a slice of normal life.

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claire keegan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. her prose is simple and succint yet she has a talent of speaking directly to readers' hearts. although i do like small things like these better, these stories were so so beautifully written. i loved antarctica the most, although all of them were wonderful.

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***I thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy of this book in return for an honest review***

Hollowing. Reflective. Succinct.
These words come to me whenever I think of Claire Keegan now, for even though she is quite famed for <i>Small Things Like These</i> specifically, <i>So Late in the Day</i> is my first of her work. And god, was it something.

Her writing style is crisp; think autumn leaves cracking under your feet—there’s nothing to add there, nothing to deduct. Just complete in its own briefness, reminiscent of old memories you never had, a feeling you never thought of.

Literary fiction is a long shot for me and Claire Keegan hit it just at the spot. Her stories revolve around men and women, and the lives that go past in a blur, slow yet timeless.

I felt a certain emptiness unlike the one I usually have—maybe a reflection of my own but mirrored?
Quite right.

A classic author in the making (if not already)
★ ★ ★ ★/5
If you want a read for a slow autumn or winter day, this is simply perfect.

⊹ . ⋆ ☽ ⋆ . ➶

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