Claire Keegan – Foster

I read this lovely little book after hearing about it on SavidgeReads.  Just a mere 88 pages long, this is a nice little story where nothing really happens but where everything happens.  A young girl is sent to live for the Summer with an older couple, who I assume are related to her in some way.  This relationship is never explained and names are never given.  This would usually annoy me (I like to know all my characters names) but in this instance, I honestly hadn’t noticed that I was never told the girl’s name until I went flicking through the book to look for it to add to this post!  I think the story is so gentle and unassuming that it just washes over you like a warm, comfy blanket and you just enjoy being in its oldy-worldy rural charm for 88 pages that incidentals like names just don’t feature into the equation and would only detract from the story’s flow.

The book is set in rural Ireland in a time when life was simpler but harsh (having to go and collect their daily water from a well) and reminded me a lot of my childhood, growing up in my Grandparents house in rural Wales where days would go by where nothing happened but I was never bored and time just went ticking by in a lazy, unhurried way.  You really feel this gentle passing of time in this book and when you get to the end – all too quickly – it’s hard to believe that you’ve only been reading about one Summer.   The books’ only flaw is that 88 pages just isn’t enough!  I wanted at least another 300 pages so I could really explore who this older couple was and what their story is (we know there is a wardrobe in their home containing a young boy’s clothes but yet there is no son in sight) and why the girl’s parents decided to take her to live a Summer away from them with a couple she barely knows.

I watch him reverse, turn into the lane, and drive away.  I hear the wheels slam over the cattle grid, then the changing of the gears and the noise of the motor going back the road we came.  Why did he leave without so much as a good-bye, without ever mentioning that he would come back for me?

I look at my feet, dirty in my sandals.

‘Lord God Almighty, didn’t he go and forget all your bits and bobs!’ the woman says. ‘No wonder you’re in a state.  Well, hasn’t he a head like a sieve, the same man.’

My favourite character is ‘the woman’ who really cares for the girl and offers her strength, support and love.  Their relationship is beautiful and like I said, would have loved it if they could have had more than a Summer together.  Eight eight pages is cleverly the charm of this book, however, and I clearly see how it won the Davy Byrnes Award (Irish stories award.)  A more than deserving winning gem of a book.

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