Here’s the second book I completed in 2018. I bought Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett in 2017 and started and finished it in January 2018.
There’s an old saying and you’re familiar with it. Never judge a book by its cover it goes. The cover you see above is the cover on the book I bought. I was book browsing in Rough Trade East in London and was attracted by the cover. It’s a sort of azure blue. I’ve looked the book up and spotted alternative covers but I judged this book worthy of buying because of its cover; and the post-amble on the back cover. Pond was for sale in a vinyl record shop but because I don’t have a record player I browse the books section instead. Blue is the colour and this book had done its turn in high street book shops and was now on sale to savvy readers wary of quirky covers designed to lure unsuspecting readers. Rough Trade is cool so Pond’s got a cool cover.
Claire-Louise is, I read, from Wiltshire. A rural county and at an early age she moved to Ireland. Pond is about a woman living alone in a cottage by the sea in what seems like Ireland. I’ve seen Pond described as a collection of short stories, a stream of consciousness or elsewhere as a collection of vignettes. In an interview further afield the author deliberately avoids describing it as much at all giving the reader license to decide for themselves, if they want to. I tried but couldn’t.
Each chapter of the book is named; the first is Voyage In The Dark, others are A Little Before Seven; Stir-Fry; Morning, 1908 and The Gloves Are Off, for example. You’re not going to get much of a story out of this book but what you will get is great language, atmosphere and irritated at times. The chapter Morning, Noon & Night begins; “Sometimes a banana with coffee is nice. It ought not to be too ripe – in fact there should be a definite remainder of green along the stalk; and if there isn’t, forget about it.” And so it goes on, a faithful record of one woman’s process of thinking, capturing those internal narratives and conflicts inside our brains. In Finishing Touch Claire-Louise is in full-on neurotic narrative declaring, “I’m determined you see, quite determined to host a low-key, but impeccably conceived, soirée.” You can almost hear the the voice of Hyacinth Bucket warbling against itself offering self-assurance that everything must be just-so conflicted against the fear of guests ruining things simply by, by turning up and getting the party protocol all wrong.
Claire-Louise Bennet superbly captures the ebb and flow, the straightness and digression of those vexing conversations that take place nowhere other than inside our heads. A lone walk disturbed by the appearance of a hooded youth evokes fear one moment excitement in another. This is what living alone is like; introversion coupled with introspection when you’ve got time on your hands.