The End of the World is a Cul de Sac by Louise Kennedy
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)
Publication date: 8 April 2021
The small blurb on NetGalley intrigued me. It read:
Announcing a major new voice, The End of World is a Cul de Sac is the debut short story collection from the twice shortlisted Sunday Times Audible Short Story Prize writer Louise Kennedy.
The political is intertwined with the personal, as Louise Kennedy reveals how ordinary lives can get caught up in a wider, national drama.
Sarah, abandoned by her partner, sits alone in their brand new house.
Orla, facing the strange revenge of her husband, is forced to judge a contest in the local fête.
Peter raises his daughter in rural seclusion, at what might as well be the end of the world.
Kennedy started writing at the age of forty-seven, and her prose is instilled with a clarity and wisdom born of her own experience.
Beyond the above, I knew nothing. I requested the book and then waited quite some time before receiving it, so didn’t even remember much of that when I started reading. Half a page into the book, I realised the voice in my head was Irish; when I finished the next page, I Googled Louise Kennedy and that confirmed she is an Irish writer. I found it pretty impressive that her voice came through so strongly, as if magically resonating in my head. I went back and reread the the beginning paragraphs, wondering where my brain had decided this was an Irish narrator, and though the names used were Irish, I think it was mainly down to the cadence having a distinct Irish patter. In and of itself, it’s quite beautiful to read.
There’s no question Kennedy can write—she’s eloquent and her words are evocative, bringing to mind clear vignettes of her characters’ lives. In this way, with admiration of her craft, I enjoyed reading the stories, but I found that, as a collection, it was beyond bleak—a wallow in the seamier side of life. In a time where my confidence in humanity is already running low (too many selfish responses to the pandemic, politicians willing to blatantly lie and undermine the very integrity of democracy, etc.), I just really didn’t need a relentless dose of more depravity and depression. Is this the world as Kennedy truly sees and experiences it? Is this more a norm than than I’m aware of, or is it just a tight focus on a subsection, something akin to poverty tourism? I’m obviously not in a place to judge, but I do know that with the exception of “Wolf Point” there was so little hope or positivity within the pages that I don’t want to believe this is the whole of the world for anyone, even if there are people who can see aspects of their lives within. A bit of balance would have gone a long way.
With many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the advance copy for review. Though this book wasn’t for me, as initially stated, Louise Kennedy can certainly write.