Pond – Claire-Louise Bennett

“I only wish you could just spend five minutes beneath my skin and feel what it’s like. Feel the savage swarming magic I feel.”

The back-cover blurb writer calls this book “profoundly original but not eccentric” but I strongly disagree – the narrator of this novel/collection/whatever initially seems quite stable but eventually reveals herself to be as eccentric as they come, if not sometimes utterly bonkers. She has quite an ornate turn of phrase as she describes her very quiet and uneventful life living alone in rural Ireland. Actually what she mostly describes is her own thoughts, which tend to go down rabbit holes of introspection. At one point, as she is weeding a garden, her thoughts go completely off the rails into an impressionistic and incoherent Joycean rant: “Turns were taken and time put in, so much heft and grimace, there, with callouses, all along the diagonal” and so on for a dizzying page or two.

After re-reading the book, I realised that sentences like that are scattered throughout the book, but they mostly make sense in context. Mostly. I felt a lot of the time as if the narrator was teetering on the edge of comprehensibility, but managed to keep it together – until the garden weeding episode. It may be impossible for words to convey her savage swarming magic, but this book at least gives us a few glimpses.

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