This is the second short story of Keegan’s that I have listened to, the first being Small Things Like These. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a copy because it is so short, so listened to the audiobook that I borrowed from the library. It is good.
It is a tense story of a relationship; an irish man and a french woman where the key question comes halfway through the book – what is it that Irish men want? (You could take the Irish out of the equation.)
Cafal is a man bored or distracted from his job and to show this, Keegan details all the small actions he takes from losing a file on his computer to the woman who talks to him on the bus where he catches himself wishing that she would shut up. This is the first clue that not everything is alright in his world.
The story then goes on to detail his meeting Sabrine, their getting together, discussing marriage and becoming engaged although at each key point, something is said by Cafal that upsets Sabrine. He moans when he has to buy cherries from Lidl that cost 6 euros. He never cooks for her or brings her breakfast in bed and then he is upset at all her ‘stuff’ that she brings with her when she moves into his house. he compalins when he has to pay more for the engagement ring because the stones have been reset.
There is one point in the book when Cafal, his brother and father laugh at something they do to their mother. It was a cruel act, designed to humiliate a 60 year old woman by men who are misogynists. I found it almost unbearable and with Keegan’s writing, terse and succinct, it was over and done in a couple of sentences. And then, Cafal’s brother texts him about his situation. Is it too late in the day for Cafal to change his ways? Sadly, I suspect it might be because those around him are also misogynists and he doesn’t sound like the type of man who would carve his own path.