Antarctica by Claire Keegan

More short stories. I am a glutton for punishment! The title is strange and needs a little work to link to the stories other than being obviously included in the first one. The thing about short stories is I find I have to work really hard to find the links or themes in the book – I’m not an experienced short story reader and so it takes time.

The first story is about a woman, happily married we are told several times, that wants to experience sex outside of her marriage and so goes out to find it one weekend. She manages to pick up a man who is described as generous in everything and is seduced into staying longer than she should. But as soon as Keegan mentions that he was the ‘least threatening man she had known’ you know that this is not going to end well and it doesn’t. It’s quite depressing in that a woman goes out to find her sexual freedom and suffers as a result. The other story that relates to freedom is Quare Name for Boy where the young woman becomes pregnant and moves to England where she finds she is free to become a writer and then rewrites her family. She ‘turned them inside out like dirty socks’. So for neither of these women is freedom found inside marriage or even Ireland.

There are a couple of stories where innocence is lost. In The Singing Postman, post and fish are delivered in exchange for sex until it is discovered that a Fred West character lived next door and the younger sister is awakened to the danger of the world and some men (and women). The postman calls no more after this discovery. In the Ginger Rogers Sermon the girl slowly becomes aware that not everything in her family is the same as others. Through a friend she discovers that it not every mother and father sleep in separate rooms. She intervenes between her father and a woman he is dancing with because she ‘knows’ that it isn’t right and in doing so liberates her mother to ignore her father, something she wouldn’t normally do, and to drive off, leaving him standing at the gate. She learned to drive by watching televison as she hadn’t been able to do so driving the car.

These are well-written stories but I still don’t enjoy this format.

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