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Mary’s Pick of the Week: So Late in the Day: Stories of Women and Men by Claire Keegan

So Late in the Day book cover

Through her subtitle and the opening quote from Philip Larkin, Keegan sets the tone for So Late in the Day: Stories of Women and Men, a series of three vignettes set in contemporary Ireland and explores men wrestling with frustrations and women reacting to their own desires.  

From “Aubade” by Philip Larkin:

”It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know, Have always known, know that we can’t escape, Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.”

  Opening with “So Late in the Day,” we are introduced to Cathal, who’s finishing a lackluster day at work before heading home.  He reminisces about first meeting Sabine, and how the actions of his father ripple through the years to influence his inability to connect and truly love another person. “The Long and Painful Death” focuses on a writer who’s been given a stay in Henrich Boll’s cottage in the west of Ireland.  She attempts to work during her first day she’s in residence, but is derailed by a visitor.  During a foray to the beach, our heroine is amused by a hen who takes what appears to be a suicidal leap off a cliff, only to see that she’s safely landed on a sandy outcropping and happily pecking away with her fellow hens … it is a scene that appears to be a simple allegory, but in the hands of a gifted writer, ends up being so much more. A bored housewife in “Antarctica” sets out to have an adulterous fling while holiday shopping for her husband and children.  The sense of foreboding is hard to shake as she explores her freedom and attempts to recapture the spontaneity of her youth. While Keegan displays a deft hand at creating deep emotions and tones in few words, readers should be prepared for a complex series of stories illuminating the difficulties between men and women.   Be prepared for it to resonate long after you’ve finished; Keegan demonstrates her keen assessment of the sexes, and a cutting treatise on misogyny, in short order. So, much like fine poetry, this book demands a second reading.

Photo of Claire Keegan
Photo courtesy of Curtis Brown

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