Checkout 19 (Penguin Random House 2021) is the much anticipated second book from Irish/British author Claire-Louise Bennett after her acclaimed short story collection Pond. In this highly literary novel, praised by Anne Enright and Roddy Doyle, Bennett writes in a meta-fiction style exploring reading and writing, trauma and triumphs, freedoms and pain, in a wide-ranging yet intimate exploration of her love of literature, and of her journey of relationships and her particular family history, ‘fusing fantasy with lived experience’.
This book is smart, clever, insightful, experimental, thoughtful and beautiful prose. The text is written in extremely long, continuous sentences, with very few paragraph breaks. She writes of many small moments of almost inconsequential import scattered amongst major trauma and memories of grief-stricken or sorrowful incidents. It is not an ordinary linear or chronological tale. The most affecting passage for me was a chapter towards the end dealing with an extremely distressing incident and its aftermath, both for the author and for those around her, even years later.
This book will appeal to those readers not content with a simple story but who desire a literary challenge.