Female. Education: Attended University of Roehampton. Addresses: Home: Galway, Ireland.
Short Story Prize, White Review, 2013; Pond was named one of the best books of the year by Buzzfeed and BookPage, and shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize; bursaries from the Irish Arts Council and Galway City Council.
- Pond (short stories), Fitzcarraldo Editions (London, England), 2015, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2016.
Also author of novella, Morning, 1908.
Writer Claire-Louise Bennett lives in Galway, Ireland. She studied literature and drama at the University of Roehampton and received bursaries from the Irish Arts Council and Galway City Council. She received the inaugural White Review Short Story Prize in 2013. Bennett published her story collection Pond in Ireland first, then received international acclaim when it was republished in New York. The book was named one of the best books of the year by Buzzfeed and BookPage, and it was shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. She also published the novella Morning, 1908. Bennett dropped out of a Ph.D. program and moved to Ireland where she explored different approaches to writing that focused on physical space more than people and relationships.
In a slender volume, Pond involves an unnamed young English woman, a disaffected academic living in seclusion in a stone cottage on the outskirts of a small coastal village in western Ireland. Bennet presents an interior reality of the woman's life, offers vignettes of her longings, frustrations, disappointments, affairs, and ambivalence with other lovers that link into a look at her persona. According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor: "First published in Ireland, Bennett's meditative debut--rigorous, poetic, and often very funny--captures the rich inner life of a young woman." The contributor added: "Bennett's debut lingers long after the last page."
Eschewing conventional notions of plot and narrative, Bennett provides twenty vignettes that discuss seemingly innocuous events, "the commonplace order of things," in a variety of lengths, from short story to just a few sentences. The vignettes describe the woman placing bowls on the windowsill, eating porridge, collecting sticks, encountering a cow, cooking supper and then throwing it right away, and going to an event held at the landlady's house. The woman contemplates childhood memories, dirt from the garden under her fingernails, the broken stove's knobs, the sound of the clothes dryer, artwork that she bought, and her feelings about men. "Irish author Bennett's linked-vignette debut novel remains luminous and endlessly fascinating," noted Xpress Reviews writer Barbara Hoffert.
Without ever learning the woman's name, the reader gets to peer into her mind and see how she thinks and what her deeply intimate thoughts are. Writing in Vogue, Megan O'Grady observed: "The clarifying relief of self-imposed exile--'All the names mean nothing to you, and your name means nothing to them'--is central to Pond, which, notwithstanding the title's nod to Thoreau, more closely resembles a wood, with its thickets and clearings of prose and moments of dark and bright."
Bennett explained her idea for the Pond, saying that she came across the book Great Reckonings in Little Rooms, which introduced her to phenomenology in the context of theater performance that helped her change her view of sensory engagement and personal, embodied experience. "For some reason I find mundane objects rather poignant--I love still-life paintings, they are suggestive of life in a way I find very moving," said Bennett in an interview with Philip Maughan online at Paris Review. Maughan commented: "What makes the book unique is the voice in which those moments are described--unfolding in a bird-like language that feels closer to thought than public address."
Explaining her style of vignettes, Bennett wrote in an article at Irish Times: "In solitude you don't need to make an impression on the world, so the world has some opportunity to make an impression on you. It was the interplay between these destabilising lacunae and engrossing impressions that I wanted to somehow get on the page." Los Angeles Times contributor Heller McAlpin commented: "Voice is key in an introspective, meandering narrative such as this, and Bennett's is wryly intelligent. ... Beneath its shimmery surface, Pond repeatedly plumbs the myriad setbacks and frustrations of adult life."
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- Booklist, July 1, 2016, Diego Baez, review of Pond, p. 29.
- Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2016, review of Pond.
- Xpress Reviews, July 1, 2016, Barbara Hoffert, review of Pond.
- Edinburgh International Book Festival, https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/ (December 1, 2016), author profile.
- Irish Times, http://www.irishtimes.com/ (May 26, 2015), "Claire-Louise Bennett on Writing Pond, " author interview.
- Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/ (December 1, 2016), Heller McAlpin, review of Pond.
- Paris Review, http://www.theparisreview.org/ (July 18, 2016), Philip Maughan, "The Mind in Solitude: An Interview with Claire-Louise Bennett."
- Rumpus, http://therumpus.net/ (July 19, 2016), Nina Schuyler, review of Pond.
- Vogue, http://www.vogue.com/ (July 6, 2016), Megan O'Grady, "Claire-Louise Bennett Talks about Her Genre-Bending Debut, Pond, and the Magic of Solitude," author interview.*