Pond

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Named a Best Book of the Year by Elle, New York Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, BookPage, and Publisher's Weekly

Shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize 

“A sharp, funny, and eccentric debut … Pond makes the case for Bennett as an innovative writer of real talent. … [It]reminds us that small things have great depths.”New York Times Book Review

"Dazzling…exquisitely written and daring ." –O, the Oprah Magazine


Immediately upon its publication in Ireland, Claire-Louise Bennett’s debut began to attract attention well beyond the expectations of the tiny Irish press that published it. 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—from the best way to eat porridge or bananas to an encounter with cows—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. The effect is of character refracted and ventriloquized by environment, catching as it bounces her longings, frustrations, and disappointments—the ending of an affair, or the ambivalent beginning with a new lover. As the narrator’s persona emerges in all its eccentricity, sometimes painfully and often hilariously, we cannot help but see mirrored there our own fraught desires and limitations, and our own fugitive desire, despite everything, to be known.

Shimmering and unusual, Pond demands to be devoured in a single sitting that will linger long after the last page.

PRAISE FOR


"[An] auspicious debut … You swim through this novel as you do through a lake in midsummer, pushing through both warm eddies and the occasional surprisingly chilly draft from below. … Bennett seems to know exactly what to take seriously. She puts us inside a complicated, teeming mind, and she doesn’t dabble in forced epiphanies. …There’s some James Joyce in the wordy, cerebral rush of her sentences. …Yet Pond is rarely murky and never pretentious. … Sometimes first novels like Pond are one-offs. They deliver a voice the author can’t tap again. Ms. Bennett’s sensibility here feels like the tip of a deep iceberg, and I’ll be in line to read whatever she publishes next. Her witty misanthropy is here to ward off mental scurvy." –The New York Times

“A sharp, funny, and eccentric debut … one of those books so odd and vivid they make your own life feel strangely remote. Somehow, Bennett has written a fantasy novel for grownups that is a kind of extended case for living an existence that threatens to slip out of tune. Such a life, Bennett suggests, is more actual than list-laden, ego-driven, ‘successful’ adulthoods. … The stories in Pond amount to a kind of manifesto insisting we are missing the very point of our lives. Adulthood’s melancholy, its losses, its scars, are its most meaningful elements, they seem to suggest. … Pond, which can be mordantly funny, is haunted by a feeling of semi-tragedy, a quality of loss that’s hard to put one’s finger on. … Pond makes the case for Bennett as an innovative writer of real talent. … [It]reminds us that small things have great depths.” –The New York Times Book Review

“A work of fiction that will make you feel pleasantly insane…What moves the reader forward is the sense the stories convey of a real-time psychological fabric: the reader experiences the narrator’s world at the same pace she does, a thing chopped up into irregular units organized by vague questions and obscurely colored moods. Like Lydia Davis, Bennett…takes a state of mind closely associated with madness and places it in settings that are utterly domestic, mundane. The result is fervid and fearful; at times, “Pond” recalls works by Knut Hamsun and Samuel Beckett… At other points, the book evokes the cottage hymns of Katharine Tynan, the pure formal eccentricity of Emily Dickinson, and the dread-laced, detonating uncertainty of W. B. Yeats. It is also funny…unnerving… sensitive to the point of being porous…lucid, practical, and excruciatingly cognizant of what is normal.” –The New Yorker

“Dazzling…[an] exquisitely written and daring debut work of fiction…Pond’s lovely strangeness lies in just how intimate we feel with our heroine despite knowing so little about her. By eschewing exposition, Bennett’s novel demonstrates the elucidating power of simply recording a consciousness at work, a state of being – a “mind in motion.” O, the Oprah Magazine

“The sort of avant-garde opus destined to put its author on the map alongside modern-day prose stylists of the highest order...The tilt of Bennett’s pen (or the stroke of her key) lends gravity to anything it touches… This collection is for wiseasses and weirdos, a cathedral of strange sentences... built upon the singular experience of being a human being. It contains only sharp observations and a constant juggling between beauty and decay, moments stretched and skewed like leaded glass…Pond sparkles with witty one-liners…[a] gorgeous book.” –Los Angeles Review of Books 

"[T]his Woolfian novella will challenge all your ideas of narrative. Dreamlike fragments of a life drift in and out of frame, with startling prose that will make your usual perspective feel like sleepwalking." Elle

“Bennett’s prose—ardent, addictively obsessive-compulsive, a little feral—is from another galaxy, or maybe another century. Her delight in nature and gardening can be kookily romantic…and yet one could also imagine her taking an improbably cheerful seat among the modernists…A man alone is a visionary; a woman alone is a witch—or worse, Bridget Jones. But Bennett spins something entirely different from her separateness, a kind of philosophy of being in the world as a writer both refreshing and hard-won." –Vogue

“Innovative, beguiling…meditative…a fresh new voice from seemingly out of nowhere…Reading Bennett’s book of loosely linked stories is a lovely retreat from the cacophony of contemporary life…wryly intelligent…quirky…[and] brightly original.” –Los Angeles Times

“[A] smart, funny, elliptical debut…Reminiscent of Joyce and Beckett in its unmistakably Irish blend of earthy wit and existential unease. Yet Bennett does much more than emulate literary forebears. Pond expressed her unique sensibility in deceptively simply, delightfully unsettled prose. We’ll be hearing more from this formidably gifted young writer.” –The Boston Globe

"[Pond] contains no story, no action and...one describable character and is defined as much by these absences as by the material that remains. What’s left on the page are the gleanings of a “mind in motion,” to borrow Ms. Bennett’s phrase—reflections on everyday objects, philosophical digressions, daydreams and stirred-up memories and associations... The book is reminiscent of a country diary, with entries that dwell on the narrator’s breakfast routine or her vegetable garden...Hers is a mind in attentive communion with itself, building baroque and beautiful cloud castles of thought to distract from the storms of the real." –Wall Street Journal

“An elegant and intoxicating debut novel…rich with strange, sensuous and exhilarating moods and textures…we are captivated by the narrator’s sharply illuminated interior reality and her lyrical depictions of the nature about her. Boldly defying convention, Pond is an exceptional debut with beautiful hidden depths.” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A fascinating and utterly immersive reading experience that speaks volumes about the author’s creative process and delivers insights in droves...compulsively readable and wacky…[Bennett has] diffused our often confusing and chaotic world into something more manageable, yet all the while making itty-bitty molehills into mountains.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] cool, curious dive into a world of minutiae… intense, and often wickedly funny.”Christian Science Monitor

“Immediately, the prose in Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond feels new but deeply familiar — like the voice in your head but dialed just to the left. You are dropped into the book without your wits about you, and you may not totally recover them. It’s exhilarating…...[Her] solitude offers the mental freedom to digress and to proclaim and to spend pages on beautifully ludicrous digressions. Within these digressions are details, and idiosyncratic, almost-confessional meditations on those details that would put Knausgaard to shame. This is a woman at her most comfortable, her most confident…I think someone should award [Bennett] a great prize so that she can write us all something new.” –NYMag's The Cut

“Muddiness is not typically a positive description for a narrative, but this mud is sparkling, full of mica and minerals that glitter with color when the sun’s rays hit. It’s through this glistening mud that Bennett’s readers get to mudlark, mucking about in prose that is alternatively deliberate and crisp, surrealistic and unknowable, to find real gems of observation and language… deeply satisfying and refreshing…Bennett stomps all over writing-dude-in-nature territory without having to set a foot off her main character’s property line.” –New Republic

"Sharp and witty…wonderfully discursive…Pond is maybe best understood as an embrace of all that wriggles in the dirt, and an experiment in uncovering that engrossing underworld beneath our more refined and constructed selves through the act of writing. Bennett…writes through the dramatic into something deeper, and the result is a reverie of ‘fervid primary visions,’ the dredging of a riverine mind.” –The Millions

"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.” The Awl

“Impressive indeed.” Vol 1 Brooklyn

“Reminiscent of Norwegian writer Karl Knausgård as much as it is Thoreau and Zadie Smith.”

"Compelling [and] innovative …Bennett’s unique portrait of a persona emerges with an intensity and vision not often seen, or felt, in a debut.” Poets & Writers

Pond, in its quirky structure and language, calls to mind the Irish fathers of literary modernism Joyce and Beckett. But then it also echoes Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Carroll's Alice, Thoreau's Walden and, more contemporarily, Strout's Olive Kitteridge, as well as anything by Nicholson Baker…Bennett's narrator is a funny, self-deprecating, observant, opinionated, earthy woman whose mind grasps every detailed string of her rural life and gives it a pull to reveal her curiosity and contented solitude…What a treasure, this woman! –Shelf Awareness

“Beautiful and brief.” –Brooklyn Magazine

“Ireland is never mentioned outright in Claire-Louise Bennett's debut, but it is undeniably there … even if just in the extraordinary language constructing every sentence… With a rich Irish literary tradition marked by behemoths like W.B. Yeats and James Joyce, there are many books one can pick up to prepare for a trip to Ireland. However, Bennett represents the modern writer who is left to carry on such a mantel; she will not disappoint.” –The Week, “What to Read Based on Where You’re Traveling this Summer” 

“Offbeat and funny … Bennett dredges up words to speak the things people don’t say. Out of nothing comes something…remarkable…Already, I miss [Pond’s] self-aware atmosphere and its peeks at unexpected beauty.”The Post and Courier

“[Pond] breath[es] a sense of wonder into simple, everyday details…It’s a book that exerts a practical sort of magic, careful to create just the right kind of dazzling effect without delving too far into the realm of the ridiculous…Pond is like the awkward teenager at a party who knows where she stands with everyone else and uses that to her advantage, charming with her earnestness and wit.” – The Coil

“[Pond is] packed with vivid imagery of a quiet life, and deep reflections from an unquiet mind. It’s excellent, it’s ravishing, it’ll win a ton of awards, it’ll show up on everyone’s Best of 2016 lists……bravely original.” --Fiction Advocate

"[A] delight...Pond demands the reader’s full attention – and will hold it until the very last page." Signature

“Do you like weird things? Do you enjoy sentences that beg to be savored? If you answered “yes” to either, you may want to check out Pond. Composed of 20 brief sections, Pond features the poetic, stream-of-consciousness observations of a nameless, solitary young woman…From peeling fruit to having sex to writing emails, our anonymous heroine casts a bewitching veil of beauty over the minutiae of everyday life.”Hello I’m Flawed

“A formally inventive work that slips past traditional storytelling to focus on impression as it chronicles the interior life of a single, unnamed woman dwelling on Ireland’s coast.” -Library Journal

"Mysteriously but wryly told...it is unlike anything else; its 20 stories portray the things we take for granted as being important, vital and worthy of us paying much closer attention." –National Post

"Innovative and elegant...In her celebration of minutiae, Bennett recreates the experience of a believable, uniquely captivating persona.  Pond deserves to be discovered and dived into, so thoroughly does Bennett submerge readers into her meticulously dazzling world.”Booklist (starred)

"Captivating...Bennett has achieved something strange, unique, and undeniably wonderful." Publisher's Weekly (starred)

"What Bennett aims at is nothing short of a re-enchantment of the world. ... This is a truly stunning debut, beautifully written and profoundly witty."The Guardian
 
“A beautiful, lasting book that privileges modes of human experience that are so often undervalued, if they are acknowledged at all: neither formative encounters nor outward achievement, but rather the workings of a roving, inquisitive mind, open and receptive to all.” Literary Review (London)
 
“[An] artful collection of shut-in soliloquies…striking.” -The Telegraph, “What to Read in 2015”
 
“Elegantly inventive.” Financial Times

“A wild, rewardingly ecstatic ride.” –The Globe and Mail
 
“Remarkable…compelling, uncategorizable, and at times very funny.” -TLS
 
“Elegant and funny and seems to find a whole new space in the form.” –Eimear McBride, TLS, “Books of the Year”
 
“By turns funny, sexy, poignant and caustic, Pond is a strange, poetic and beautiful debut…it pushes the boundaries of what a novel can be…Claire-Louise Bennett is very much the real deal.”  - The Workshy Fop
 
“A fresh 21st century version of the modernist stream of consciousness… [Bennett’s] ability to smoothly merge everyday activities and lifeless entities, such as ottomans and control knobs, with more profound considerations and past experiences is rare and uncanny…a promising author to keep an eye on.” The Skinny
 
“Stunning.” Bookmunch

“A touch of William Gaddis.   A touch of Lydia Davis.  A touch of Samuel Beckett.  A touch of Edna O'Brien.  And yet Claire-Louise Bennett's POND feels entirely unique.   Quiet and luxurious all at once, this will be one of the most sensational debuts of the year.” —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin 

"Claire-Louise Bennett sets the conventions of literary fiction ablaze in this ferociously intelligent and funny debut. Don't be fooled by Pond's small size. It contains multitudes." —Jenny Offill, author of Department of Speculation

"Pond is brilliant — sharp and absorbing, compassionate and funny — and Claire-Louise Bennett is a deeply original writer with talent to spare. I can't stop thinking about this book."
—Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans

"As brilliant a debut and as distinct a voice as we've heard in years--this is a real writer with the real goods."--Kevin Barry, author of Beatlebone and City of Bohane

“I’d heard more good whispers about Pond than almost any other debut this year. . . . These stories are intelligent and funny, innovative and provocative, and it’s impossible to read them without thinking that here is a writer who has only just begun to show what she can do.” —Eimear McBride, author of A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing

“Extraordinary . . . profoundly original though not eccentric, sharp and tender, funny and deeply engaging. A very new sort of writing . . . an acute, satisfying, delicate, honest meditation on both the joys and frustrations of a life fully lived in solitude. Take it slowly, because it is worth it, and be impressed and joyful.” —Sara Maitland, author of A Book of Silence

“Wielding a wry but implacable logic, Claire-Louise Bennett dives under the surface of ‘ordinary’ experiences and things to reveal their supreme and giddy illogic. Like . . . Lydia Davis . . . she writes an impeccable affectless prose that almost magically arrives at something extraordinary.” —Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick

“Claire-Louise Bennett is a major writer to be discovered and treasured.” —Deborah Levy, author of Swimming Home