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Reviews of The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac by Louise Kennedy

The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac

Stories

by Louise Kennedy

The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac by Louise Kennedy X
The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac by Louise Kennedy
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  • Published:
    Dec 2023, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

Brilliant, dark stories of women's lives by "a very major talent" (Joseph O'Connor, Irish Times)

In these visceral, stunningly crafted stories by the author of the much-acclaimed Trespasses, women's lives are etched by poverty—material, emotional, sexual—but also splashed by beauty, sometimes even joy, as they search for the good in the cards they've been dealt.

A wife is abandoned by her new husband in a derelict housing estate, with blood on her hands. An expectant mother's worst fears about her husband's entanglement with a teenage girl are confirmed. A sister is tormented by visions of the man her brother murdered during the Troubles. A woman struggles to forgive herself after an abortion threatens to destroy her marriage. Plumbing the depths of intimacy, violence, and redemption, these stories are "dazzling, heartbreaking ... keen to share the lessons of a lifetime" (Guardian).

Gibraltar

1983
Audrey McGuigan is in front of the wire fence that marks the end of their garden, where newly planted lawn gives way to tufts of roseroot and marram grass. Behind her, Ben Bulben is under cloud, only the west side visible, curving into the sea. The tide is out, an acrid slime covering the seabed. A dog has left the carcass of a sewage-fattened mullet in the low dunes and the smell repulses her; she is seven months pregnant. Marty hasn't figured out how to use his new camera, and Audrey has been stock-still for five minutes. He's just noticed how huge she is, at least as big as when she was at full term with Rory, who is out of the picture, climbing over the Gibraltar Rocks to get away from his parents' bickering. After a clutch of car sales, Marty goes to auctions. He has bought a scrap of waste ground, a terraced house on Harmony Hill, a derelict shop near the docks. He also bought the field that borders Gibraltar. Half an hour ago, he put a sign on one of the gates that ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The stories are often bleak in concept and narrative. While this can make them tough going if consumed as a whole, many offer subtle glimmers of hope, be it through deadpan humor, hard won resilience, or hints of possible change to come. A couple of entries stand out as highlights: "Garland Sunday" and "Brittle Things." In the former, we look at the repercussions of a couple's decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. In the latter, we follow the mother of a non-speaking autistic child, as she attempts to simultaneously shield and nurture him in a world he finds overwhelming. To do so, she must navigate the frustrations of daily life, grapple with misplaced guilt, overcome her husband's denial about their son's condition, and face the constant pity of her friends and neighbors. Throughout the book at large, there is a sense of the weight held by words that go unspoken...continued

Full Review Members Only (597 words)

(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

Chicago Review of Books
One of the most exciting voices in Irish literature.

Compact Magazine
A contemporary publishing unicorn: a work of extraordinary craftsmanship, written by someone who knows something about life.

Good Housekeeping
This taut, sometimes surreal collection is all about women's lives and it dives to gut-twisting depths and soars to dizzying heights. Perfect for women and anyone who's ever met one.

New York Times Book Review
Kennedy's droll wit and spot-on dialogue brilliantly illuminate her characters' travails.

Real Simple
Dazzling... . Brace for a tense and provocative examination of women's lives, and how perseverance can push you through the direst circumstances.

Shondaland
Quietly bleak and deliciously detailed.

Star-Tribune
These are lives in progress, bolstered by richly imagined back stories, that we dip into for a critical moment or stage…Kennedy packs these stories with life... entrancing.

Boston Globe
These gritty stories are marked by dark wit and avid artistry... . Literature with backbone.

Guardian
Dazzling, heartbreaking...these fifteen taut tales recall Annie Proulx at her best: salty, wise, droll and keen to share the lessons of a lifetime.

Sunday Times (UK)
Gritty, bitter, hard-won...Kennedy's voice, and her unforgiving gaze, are electric.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Irish in its lyricism and landscape, universal in its portrayal of the vagaries of the heart.

Publishers Weekly
Incisive stories [of] women at precipitous turning points in their lives. … Each story reverberates with a sense of the far-reaching effect of choices made or imposed. It adds up to a remarkable and cohesive collection.

Author Blurb Anne Enright
I love Kennedy's vividly conjured reality. Her prose is so alive, I am surprised that the book stays shut when you close it.

Author Blurb Emma Donoghue
Like fifteen novels squeezed between two covers, ready to blow your mind. The only other writer I can think of who packs this much moving, terrible life into each story is Alice Munro.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Abortion in Ireland

Photo of crowd in London after repeal of abortion ban, with central focus on the back of a blue item of clothing reading 'Repeal' in white letters In 2018, in a culturally and historically significant move, the Irish public voted in favor of overturning the country's long-held ban on abortion, with more than 66% supporting the repeal. This victory for improving access to healthcare for millions was by no means an overnight success, however.

On the contrary, the fight to legalize abortion in Ireland was a long and arduous one. The procedure was first criminalized in 1861 with the Offences Against the Person Act, which forbid women from seeking to "procure a miscarriage." This law would see a sentence of life imprisonment handed to anyone who had or provided an abortion, or helped to provide access to one in any way.

In 1983, the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland...

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Read-Alikes

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