Claire-Louise Bennett’s ‘Pond’ is one of the best things I’ve read this year, and that includes real books where people aren’t making up stories.
I am not a huge proponent of fiction, so when something comes along in that category that really grabs me I get a little evangelical about it. What I’m saying is I really want to recommend to you Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond, which is out on July 12.
It’s always a difficult line to walk when you urge a book on someone but do not want to reveal too much about it, so let me just share some of the promotional copy:
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 … 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.
I won’t add much, because you should really come to it fresh, except to tell you that the book is a phenomenal combination of hilarity and stillness with a weird undercurrent of menace that never quite rises to the surface but always leaves you slightly uneasy even as you are smiling about something brilliant the writer has managed to capture in the short space of a few pages. (Samuel Beckett is the presiding spirit here, but if you are not a fan do not be frightened off; it is an influence that is borne lightly and wielded well.)
At around 200 pages the book is indeed “deceptively slender.” It’s not a beach book per se, but it is perfect for now because you can read it in a night or dip into it as time allows; the brevity of the chapters give you the space to take as much as you want depending on your mood. The narrative voice is unusual in our present moment because you are never filled with rage or impatience by it, and the level of self-importance the book attaches to itself is so low that you are never even once tempted to make the “jerking off” motion that seems to be the only reasonable response to most of the novels being published today.
Anyway, don’t take my word for it. I mean, I guess do take my word for it but pick it up and then judge for yourself. If you order it now you will have it in a couple of weeks and then at least your what to read problem will be solved. Enjoy.