Cover Image: The End of the World is a Cul de Sac

The End of the World is a Cul de Sac

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Member Reviews

This collection of short stories is set in Ireland and provides a series of vignettes into ordinary lives - usually pretty miserable ones, as the characters battle loneliness, loss and misery.  Some of the stories are linked with characters appearing in both, which makes one think the author had an idea for a book but couldn't develop it, so just slung a few plots in this collection.   There were no laugh out loud moments.

The stories are generally well written, and some are quite heartwrenching, with the reader identifying with the plight of the characters.   Some stand well as short stories, some I reached the end and wondered what the point of reading it was, since nothing had been gained.

So, like the curate's egg, it was good in parts.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Sadly my reaction to this collection was of sheer disappointment. I just found the stories to be bland and lacklustre, in fact it took me months to finish as I kept dipping in and out of the book and actually read dozens of other things instead. However I didn’t want to give up as there may have been something in this anthology that may have reversed my initial opinion but unfortunately having finally finished it, that didn’t happen.   Kennedy is a good writer but I just wasn’t wowed by any of the settings or characters in the stories and my attention kept wavering. I just felt deflated. It was a shame that I didn’t see the wonder in Kennedy’s writings as I love discovering new authors but the connection just wasn’t there for me.
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For some reason this book was way different to what I expected it to be. As somebody who normally really enjoys short stories this didn't hit the spot with me.
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I enjoy a good short story collection, and there's no doubt that these are really beautifully written short stories.  But they are so very bleak, that I found it a struggle to get to the end.  So, for me, it was a difficult read because this pandemic life is hard enough without the added strain of dark and dismal reading matter.  If you're made of stronger stuff, and you enjoy short stories, then go for it because they're very well done.  But if you're looking to books as an escape right now, this might be one to shelve until later.
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I usually like books of short stories as I like to dip in and out but this book was not for me. I read three stories and decided that the style of writing did not engage me..
There is nothing wrong with the writing it is just not my cup of tea.
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Louise Kennedy's new collection of stories' The End of the World is a Cul de Sac presents a bleak vision of modern Irish life. Frustrated romance, unhappy marriages, fractious children, family dysfunction, drugs, loneliness, and loveless sex lie along the path of this cul de Sac.
Yet these forces are tempered by yearnings for a better life: a constant hope for fulfilling relationship, meaningful work, harmony in the home.
Kennedy shows an ampleness of understanding: the myths, customs and landscapes of Ireland, standing stones, fairy forts, ancient rituals (the scattering of ashes off Malin Head is one instance), are embedded in these narratives of sadness.
In 'What the Birds Heard', a lyrical note is struck which counters the faltering emotional uncertainties of Doireann, the artist seeking a new life:
'the palette of the coast line, the soft ever-morphing hues, in thrall to light and hour and water'.
This is a prose which lies at the poetic end of the spectrum and it is scattered throughout this collection.
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The small blurb on NetGalley intrigued me but beyond it, I knew nothing. I requested the book and then waited quite some time before receiving it, so didn’t even remember much of that when I started reading. Half a page into the book, I realised the voice in my head was Irish; when I finished the next page, I Googled Louise Kennedy and that confirmed she is an Irish writer. I found it pretty impressive that her voice came through so strongly, as if magically resonating in my head. I went back and reread the the beginning paragraphs, wondering where my brain had decided this was an Irish narrator, and though the names used were Irish, I think it was mainly down to the cadence having a distinct Irish patter. In and of itself, it’s quite beautiful to read. 

There’s no question Kennedy can write—she’s eloquent and her words are evocative, bringing to mind clear vignettes of her characters’ lives. In this way, with admiration of her craft, I enjoyed reading the stories, but I found that, as a collection, it was beyond bleak—a wallow in the seamier side of life. In a time where my confidence in humanity is already running low, (too many selfish responses to the pandemic, politicians willing to blatantly lie and undermine the very integrity of democracy, etc.), I just really didn’t need a relentless dose of more depravity and depression. Is this the world as Kennedy truly sees and experiences it? Is this more a norm than than I’m aware of, or is it just a tight focus on a subsection, something akin to poverty tourism? I’m obviously not in a place to judge, but I do know that with the exception of “Wolf Point” there was so little hope or positivity within the pages that I don’t want to believe this is the whole of the world for anyone, even if there are people who can see aspects of their lives within. A bit of balance would have gone a long way. 

With many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the advance copy for review. Though this book wasn’t for me, as initially stated, Louise Kennedy can certainly write.
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I'm not really a fan of the streaming consciousness type of writing , so found this difficult to read. Would suit people who like this way of writing and short stories.
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I don't usually like short stories but I know Louise Kennedy's writing and I love it.

What a gem this is!

Every story is beautifully composed, every word and thought so beautifully written.

I would advise everone to read this. 

I want to read much more from Louise Kennedy.
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