Cover Image: So Late in the Day

So Late in the Day

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I’ve read the two latest hits from Claire Keegan, the Booker Prize nominated Small Things Like These and the recently re-published novella Foster. I enjoyed them both very much, but this is definitely my favorite of her works I’ve read thus far.

Keegan clearly excels in the short form. This upcoming collection of 3 of her previously published short stories (“So Late in the Day”, “The Long and Painful Death”, and “Antarctica”) takes a look at the complexity of relationships between men and women. Each character in these stories is wanting: companionship, independence, or maybe brief human connection. And Keegan masterfully subverts these characters’ expectations with masterful attention to detail.

Her every word feels deliberate, but not overwrought. Keegan’s ability to write succinctly about a characters emotional state or their physical surroundings is a pleasure to witness. She also captures Irish dialect and dialogue with such naturalness.

I loved these stories. I would definitely read them again. And I think fans of Keegan’s work will find a lot to enjoy in this brief but powerful collection. I only wish it had included more stories!

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Three short stories – all of which have previously been published but which are thematically linked by the difficult dynamics between men (particularly those bought up to resent females) and women.

“So Late In the Day” was published in the New Yorker in 2022 (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/02/28/fiction-claire-keegan-so-late-in-the-day), “The Long and Painful Death” was part of her 2007 collection “Walk The Blue Fields” and “Antarctica” was the title story of her 1999 collection of the same name.

“So Late In the Day” features an office worker Cathal reflecting on how his actions/inactions/lack of generosity caused a relationship to break up, just as he was about to get married. A highlight of the story is a brief tableau he remembers of how he and his brother’s tricked his mother, and how his father’s amused rather than furious reaction probably made Cathal the man he is today and therefore still alone. If I had a criticism of the story, it is that the last line seems delivered like it’s a twist when it is anything but.

“A Long and Painful Death” is about a short story writer taking up residency at the real-life Henrich Boll Cottage in Achill Island, being harangued by a self-righteous German literature scholar and taking revenge in writing a short story in which he has the fate of the title – this was I thought a clever little story although I was unsure quite how metafictional/autofictional it was.

“Antarctica” was my least favourite as I really did not understand what I was meant to take from the story – a married woman decides to have a one-night stand just to experience sex outside marriage but what initially seems a diverting experience takes a serious turn.

These stories to show Keegan’s mastery of the short story form – although I prefer her at more Novella length.

My thanks to Grove Atlantic for an ARC via NetGalley.

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I loved this collection of three short stories by Claire Keegan, all of which take place in Ireland. Though the book is short in length, it is deep and intense. The main theme running through all three stories is the unexpected emotional and physical violence delivered to women by men..

The first story, and the book's title, is So Late in the Day. The protagonist is Cathal, an emotionally stingy and withholding man. He reflects on his prior relationship with Sabine and how it went wrong. Not only were there misunderstandings, but Cathal resented Sabine's expectation of mutual love and respect. Now that the relationship has ended, he villainizes her and revels in his perceived power. He has chosen denial in order to make himself look like the winner in this misguided relationship.

The second story, A Long and Painful Death, is about a 39 year old woman who has been granted a residency for her writing at the Heinrich Boll house on Achill Island. She is interrupted by knocking at her door and reluctantly answers. It is an older man, a German professor, who is envious of her residency and whose presence makes her uncomfortable. Her personal space is violated and, after he leaves, she envisions giving him a long and painful death in her writing.

The third story, Antarctica, is the most powerful and violent. A married woman with children tells her husband that she is going out of town to buy Christmas presents. Her intention, however, is to pick up an unknown man and have anonymous sex with him. What transpires had me transfixed and horrified.

Claire Keegan is a brilliant writer. Her ability to display a situation without apparent drama, allows the reader to visualize and imagine what is communicated between the lines. She is a wordsmith who weaves beauty out of language.

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The way Claire writes is beyond beautiful. She can write about rural Irish life like no other. the yellow of the shaving light, the sounds and smells took me back to childhood. You hate and love a character all at the same time, So Late in the Day was my favourite and I will be thinking of Cathal for a long time to come, he reminds me of a friend, the sad realisation that they will never change.

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A master at the top of her game.

Claire Keegan gives us these three stories in this collection:

So Late in the Day
Long and Painful Death
Antartica

A thread which I found ran through the three stories was the theme of giving and receiving.

In the first story we have a man unable to give and unable to receive in good spirit leaving him in a very lonely place. I thank God that Sabine made the right choice rather than spending a life giving without receiving.

In the second story we have a woman who has her own way of doing things. She meets a man who tries to impose his way of doing things on her and who is willing to take and impose without even giving a small complement as a sign of appreciation.

In the third story we again see 'giving' as a mutual giving between a woman and a man which is then turned on it's head when the giving is abused and turned into 'taking'.

An ARC gently provided by author/publisher via Netgalley.

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This was my first time reading Claire Keegan and I discovered her when she was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
This small collection of short stories surprised me with their direct approach and the strong message that they convey. Violence towards women is the thread that unites them.

You can see different types of violence directed towards women in this stories. The first story for me is the most intimate and the saddest because the violence comes from someone who you love and don't expect to be hurt by them. I suppose the blow is more painful because of this supposed love between them.
The third story provokes in you a feeling of utterly injustice and desperation. On one hand, women are not objects you can posses and on the other hand we are always so much condemned and so severely punished for our choices than men have been through history.

Thank you for this advanced copy.

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A short story looking over what ‘may have been’ if you played your cards right, or if you said something different. Cathal with a bottle of champagne thinks of how Sabine could have been his wife if - there were many ifs here.

Cathal is troubled from the beginning - did the relationship spin too fast, did it get out of his control. The cracks appeared with his frugal ways - with feeling as well as money. Cathal seemed to be his own enemy . He said the wrong thing at the wrong time, did not think through what he said, or it was omission on his part of saying nothing when he should have said something.

The book was contained and seemed just right for this story. Anything more would have been too much.

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Thank you NetGalley for providing this advanced copy. I've loved Claire Keegan's writing since reading Small Things Like These and Foster. So Late in the Day didn't disappoint and what it gave were three interesting short stories. I found there were strong messages across the three - of women, relationships, masculinity and power - which stayed with me once I finished the collection. Antarctica was by far my favourite, the ending was quite something (without spoiling anything). However, The Long and Painful Death fell flat for me and dulled the experience somewhat. Overall though, an enjoyable read and just what I was hoping for from the author.

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I loved the first two stories in this collection. These were really interesting separate stories connected by the common thread of a person narrating from outside of a marriage. Isolation is a key theme but loneliness seems to be a choice for some characters.
I hated the last story but I was surprised by how gripping and tragic I found the final pages to be. I wish there was more to read! Thank you for this arc.

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These three Short Stories, almost extended essays in length, have been published between one and nearly twenty five years ago. They tell tales of men and women against an Irish backdrop. "So late in the day" paints a poignant picture of an Irish-French relationship shattered by misunderstandings. The second story, "The Long and Painful Death," melds real-life events with European academia in a semi-rural setting. "Antarctica" delves into anonymous intimacy, showcasing diverse perspectives on relationships. While the first two stories resonate deeply, and remain memorable, the third explores a more conventional theme and is almost a cliche often depicted in popular media. This collection , all previously published, explores love, connection, and miscommunication and leaves a lasting impression.

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Claire Keegan's writing remains a treasure trove of emotion and description, and her latest collection of three reworked short stories is no exception. Each novella, characterised by Keegan's signature sparse prose, is a gem in itself. While standalone, they collectively explore the intricate gender dynamics and the looming spectres of control, violence, and unrealized expectations within relationships.

"Antarctica," my personal favourite, chronicles a woman's journey out of town for an affair with a stranger, capturing the essence of the anthology's overarching theme. Keegan's deft exploration of these themes is a testament to her skill and craftsmanship as an author.

For fans of Claire Keegan's work, this collection is a must-read, a showcase of her ability to evoke profound emotions with economy of words.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions shared here are entirely my own.

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"Women falling out of love. The veil of romance fell away from their eyes."

Claire Keegan presents three short stories bundled together with the kiss of an eye-opening touch. She explores women at the core and men at the peripheral of relationships half-kiltered because of faulty decisions......decisions on the giving and on the receiving and on both ends.

So Late in the Day tells the tale of the caustic Cathal reflecting back to the days spent with his fiancee, Sabine. Sabine is Normandy French and Cathal is from Arlow outside of Dublin. She swirls with the right side of her brain working in the Hugh Lane Gallery and creating lush desserts. He leans to the left side of his brain hunched over his desk with facts and figures and budgets. And yet, the destiny of opposites seemed to attract.......at least momentarily. And just who walked away when the pressures of pleasing the other became too much?

The Long and Painful Death is one of discovery. A young woman writer has been gifted with access to the Boll House used as a working residence by the late Heinrich Boll, a Nobel Prize winner for Literature. She's brought all the items of her craft, but she can't quite seem to settle into her writing mode. The beauty of Nature and Achill Island beckons to her. That is until an unexpected German professor interrupts her with his boldness. And, ironically, he'll become her focus for the day.......irritating and clearly misogynistic in his carriage.

Antarctica, my favorite, showcases a woman running away from her present life and towards something nebulous to fulfill her in the moment. She's been bogged down by an unfulfilling marriage and the unending demands of childcare. She plans a Christmas shopping excursion by herself for the weekend. And what transpires in that weekend will leave you quite startled.

Claire Keegan is a gifted writer. She has captured the essence of these characters so well even in the confines of short stories. We 'feel" them on both sides of the equation: male perspectives and female perspectives. We observe psyches caught up in certain concrete expectations never breaking free towards change. Brilliantly written, So Late in the Day is a must read.

I received a copy of these short stories through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Grove Press and to the talented Claire Keegan for the opportunity.

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Claire Keegans writing is phenomenal. So real that I often feel the emotions and moments that the characters are living. I like that these are short stories and it's easy to pick up and read one. *Spoiler note*. the last story in this book has a _very disturbing_ ending. Be forewarned if you're sensitive like me.

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Honestly this collection of stories failed to do much for me, maybe it was just the fact that they were so short, but I found myself reading with an emotional detachment the entire time.

This collection felt more like a strain of consciousness on gender roles and marriage in our society, than stories of their own right. The observations were sharp although a little on the nose, and I struggled to connect to the story despite the fact that the prose was admirable.

Maybe it was the fact that the stories felt somewhat nihilistic in their tone, but overall this didn’t really leave much of an impression.

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I'm a big fan of this author and as much as I enjoyed the prose, I couldn't say the same for the story. It was a bit too much on the nose for me and there wasn't enough meat to it to have left a real impression on me.

I will not review this on Instagram, because I have read and loved all her other work. I'm recommending Foster to so many people for years and I will continue to read her work. Maybe I found this a bit of an disappointment just because I like her other books so much.

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So Late in The Day by Claire Keegan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This insightful, crisply written short story collection collection explores gender dynamics, expectations, and misogyny through the (seemingly) mundane. I found the first piece the most compelling, but was drawn into all three.

These stories, previously published, have been revised for this collection, out November 14, 2023.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for this ARC. Opinions are my own.

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“so much of life carrying smoothly on, despite the tangle of human upsets and the knowledge of how everything must end.”

From: So Late in the Day: stories of women and men by Claire Keegan

This is an amazing collection of three absorbing, humane short stories. Especially the first and the last left a lasting impression on me.

Keegan’s writing is so quiet, yet so crisp and on point. Never a word too much, but still so able to portray mood and the build up of tension and stress. It is unbelievable to me how quickly she can draw you into the lives and feelings of her characters.

A few themes that are worked out in these stories to perfection, in my opinion, is toxic masculinity and the effect that has on human relationships. And the way she can describe daily routine without it ever being boring is very interesting to me.

I took my time with these stories and re-read them several times and they kept revealing more to me. Before this I’ve only read Small Things Like These, which I thought was great, but this collection tops that experience for me and I cannot wait to pick up Foster now!

Thank you @groveatlantic and @netgalley for providing me with an eARC of this great book!

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My favorite short story collection by Claire Keegan! Her prose is beautiful as usual, and I love how they subtly seem to connect.

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Claire Keegan has the mastery of a good storyteller in that, with few words, she develops complex characters with great stories. These three stories are a good example of that.
I didn't know it, but it seems that these stories are not new, although they are revised. They follow the common thread of relationships between men and women, unfriendly relationships, that is.
I enjoyed all the stories, but, as a book, I didn't enjoy it. I was expecting at least one more story, and if it had been new, without having been published before, all the better.

Español: Claire Keegan tiene la maestría de las buenas cuentistas y es que, con pocas palabras, desarrolla personajes complejos con grandes historias. Estos tres relatos son buen ejemplo de ello.
Lo desconocía, pero parece ser que estas historias no son nuevas, aunque sí revisadas. Siguen el hilo conductor de las relaciones entre hombres y mujeres, relaciones poco amigables, eso sí.
He disfrutado todos los relatos, pero, como libro, me ha sabido a poco. Esperaba, al menos, otro relato más, y si hubiera sido nuevo, sin haberse publicado con anterioridad, mejor que mejor.

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Clare Keegan is a powerhouse of a short story writer who turns everyday moments into beautiful rhapsodies. "So Late in the Day" showcases her talent in a trio of tales about gender dynamics in a trio of tales about expectations, obstacles and ill-fated endings. The eponymous story is about a man who reminiscing about actions that lead to a failed relationship. "The Long and Painful Death" deals tells of a writer in residence whose work is disrupted by the unwelcome presence of an opinionated man. And "Antarctica" follows a wife as she journeys to the big city to find out what it's like to sleep with another man. (Let's just say that one doesn't end well.) If you've never read Keegan, this collection is a great introduction.

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