“A sharp, funny, and eccentric debut … Pond makes the case for Bennett as an innovative writer of real talent. … [It]reminds us that small things have great depths.”–New York Times Book Review
"Dazzling…exquisitely written and daring ." –O, the Oprah Magazine
Immediately upon its publication in Ireland, Claire-Louise Bennett’s debut began to attract attention well beyond the expectations of the tiny Irish press that published it. A deceptively slender volume, it captures with utterly mesmerizing virtuosity the interior reality of its unnamed protagonist, a young woman living a singular and mostly solitary existence on the outskirts of a small coastal village. Sidestepping the usual conventions of narrative, it focuses on the details of her daily experience—from the best way to eat porridge or bananas to an encounter with cows—rendered sometimes in story-length, story-like stretches of narrative, sometimes in fragments no longer than a page, but always suffused with the hypersaturated, almost synesthetic intensity of the physical world that we remember from childhood. The effect is of character refracted and ventriloquized by environment, catching as it bounces her longings, frustrations, and disappointments—the ending of an affair, or the ambivalent beginning with a new lover. As the narrator’s persona emerges in all its eccentricity, sometimes painfully and often hilariously, we cannot help but see mirrored there our own fraught desires and limitations, and our own fugitive desire, despite everything, to be known.
Shimmering and unusual, Pond demands to be devoured in a single sitting that will linger long after the last page.
Bennett's debut is a fascinating slim volume that eschews traditional narrative conventions to offer 20 mostly linked sections it's impossible to classify them strictly as chapters or stories narrated by a nameless woman living in a small cottage in rural Ireland. The sections vary in length, with some as short as a few sentences, and each offers the reader insight into the rather quiet life of Bennett's narrator. Instead of telling straightforward stories, she wanders in a stream of consciousness manner from one ordeal to the next: lamenting the broken knobs on her kitchen's mini-stove leads to an explanation of a novel about the last woman on Earth; deliberating over the best breakfast meals digresses into a story about gardening. The reader lives in the narrator's head, learning tangentially through her words about her failed attempt at a doctorate, her romantic life, and her unwavering fear of strangers. Yet, despite these revelations, the empty spaces of the narrator's life, left for the reader to fill in, are what make the book captivating. Never do we glean her name, or occupation, or appearance. She is a physical blank slate, there for the reader's imagination to round out. Bennett has achieved something strange, unique, and undeniably wonderful.