Marriage, children, mortality and memory are Kennedy’s principal concerns, and she finds truth in the tiniest details, connections and observations, though the weight of Irish history is always palpably present. In “Hunter-Gatherers”, Siobhan and Sid live in the lodge of a grand house in which England’s colonial influence still lingers. When Siobhan blots condensation from the windows with an old towel, the symbolism is clear: it’s the Irish who are left to mop up the mess. In “Silhouette”, a sister is haunted for decades by a murder committed by her brother during the Troubles, his shoes caked with mud as well as the victim’s blood and hair. “It’s grass, you tell yourself. Just grass.”
Louise Kennedy’s outstanding debut collection, The End of the World is a Cul De Sac, contains 15 stories, each a scrupulously worked dark gem. She is a storyteller of stunning gifts and immense authority; as with O’Connor, you never catch up with her, still less overtake her. She is technically brilliant – her mastery of the second-person narrative in the story In Silhouette is unerring and remarkable – and also the conjurer of a unique vision, a take on the world all her own.