Walk the Blue Fields

Reviews

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‘Breathlessly acclaimed in Britain, America, and here at home, Claire Keegan has already achieved the kind of rapturous critical praise which is usually only afforded to established literary giants. The easy critique of comparison has seen this young Wicklow woman equated with writers such as Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver and, most notably, John McGahern; however, the true measure of her talent was always going to depend on how she followed-up 1999’s Antarctica, a collection of stories so brilliantly wrought that the Observer newspaper cited them as amongst the finest written recently in the English language. Praise like that could damn a lesser writer, and so it is to Keegan’s credit that Walk the Blue Fields, her long-awaited second book, more than fulfils the heady promises of her earlier work.’ The Stinging Fly. Read Val Nolan’s complete review here.

‘Keegan, with her stately, rhythmic, always physical prose, adds the timing of her masters, McGahern and Trevor, to her imaginative realist’s art. She has a wickedly crafted assurance, subversive wit, an awareness of enduring customs and superstition, and a sense of place.’ The Irish Times

‘It takes a confident writer indeed to begin a collection of short stories with the tale of a woman who is herself struggling to start a story. The potential pitfalls are tremendous, and it is testament to Claire Keegan’s tremendous abilities that she not only doesn’t falter, but also casually encapsulates the magic of her own approach … Keegan has an eerily acute ear for dialogue, but her real gift is for what goes unsaid. Each one of her cast of priests and farmers, daughters and wives conceals secrets: longings and frustrations that sometimes curdle and sometimes blossom in unexpected ways. Whatever the outcome, these are exquisite stories, so intricately wrought, so strange and beguiling as to entirely bewitch.’ The Guardian

‘The best stories here are so textured and moving, so universal but utterly distinctive, that it’s easy to imagine readers savoring them many years from now. And to imagine critics, far in the future, deploying lofty new terms to explain what it is that makes Keegan’s fiction work.’ Maud Newton, The New York Times Book Review. For more information, read here

‘The story which has attracted most critical attention in this, Claire Keegan’s second collection, is one which she writes in explicit homage to John McGahern: “Surrender”. Inspired by an event recounted in his final work, Memoir, it focuses on an episode in which McGahern’s father, cornered – as he viewed it – into marrying his fiancée of some years, bought two dozen oranges and gobbled them up all at once. This was his last symbolic and literal act of self-indulgence before he surrendered to what he, like many of the men in Claire Keegan’s stories, regarded as the burdensome responsibility of marriage …’ read Éilís ní Dhuibhne’s complete review here

‘Claire Keegans short story collection Walk the Blue Fields shines a light into the world of rural Ireland …’ read Anne Enright’s complete review in The Guardian here

‘Keegans’ new collection of short stories shows her on impressive form … [she] is magnificent at capturing the rapturous, brimming vigour of the present and of nature.’ Observer – Paperback of the week

‘Like Chekhov, Keegan has the ability to sum up a life, or a significant chunk of one, in apparently trivial, quotidian events … there is as much food for thought here as in many a novel. All the stories are set in rural Ireland. They tell of harsh, lonely lives, alleviated by drink or dreams, in a voice that is lyrical, thoughtful, but with a thick, dark strain of melancholy running through it.’ ***** Independent on Sunday

‘Keegan, with her stately, rhythmic, always physical prose, adds the timing of her masters, McGahern and Trevor to her imaginative realist’s art. She has a wickedly crafted assurance, subversive wit, an awareness of enduring customs and superstitions, and a sense of place.’ Irish Times

‘It takes a confident writer indeed to begin a collection of short stories with the tale of a woman who is struggling to start a story. The potential pitfalls are tremendous, and it is testament to Claire Keegan’s tremendous abilities that she not only doesn’t falter, but also casually encapsulates the magic of her own approach … Keegan has an eerily acute ear for dialogue, but her real gift is for what goes unsaid. Each one of her cast of priests and farmers, daughters ad wives conceals secrets: longings and frustrations that sometimes curdle and sometimes blossom in unexpected ways. Whatever the outcome, these are exquisite stories, so intricately wrought, so strange and beguiling as to entirely bewitch.’ Guardian

‘Reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic gushed superlatives – “oblique genius”, “exceptionally gifted”, “remarkably poetic vision” – and literary awards mounted. Since then, no less an authority than Declan Kiberd has declared Keegan to be “a writer already touched by greatness” whose mastery of the short-story form is comparable to that of John McGahern … Walk the Blue Fields, Keegan’s much-anticipated follow-up volume, proves that such critical acclaim was not misplaced. Although much shorter than Antarctica – seven stories as opposed to 15 – the collection extends Keegan’s shrewd and penetrating observation of the vulnerable and mysterious depths of individual lives.’ Liam Harte, Irish Times

‘This is one of the most exceptional collections of short stories to be published by any Irish writer in recent years. Claire Keegan writes with the most extraordinary grace. Her words and images float. Many of the stories are unforgettable. This book will surely place her where she truly belongs: among the greatest practitioners of the short story form now writing.’ Joseph O’Connor, Author ofStar of the Sea

‘[Claire Keegan’s] first collection, Antarctica, was rapturously received in 1999, and her second has been awaited with great eagerness; it is no disappointment … What Keegan shows so strikingly is that there is still compulsion in the rural setting and the archetypal figures that dominated the Irish storytelling tradition throughout the twentieth century … Keegan’s is a new Ireland, in both literary and social terms, but it is the same place as the old one.’ Bernard O’Donoghue, Times Literary Supplement

‘Keegan’s evocative prose takes you so far into each story that your senses buzz afresh with them.’ The List

‘Keegan’s debut collection, Antarctica, garnered comparisons with fellow Irish author William Trevor. Her follow-up has confirmed that she belongs in that fine story-telling tradition that harks back to Anton Chekhov. Sparse, bleak and unsentimental, her stories suggest that the only thing men and women truly share is the loneliness that confines them.’ Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times

‘Simply exceptional. Keegan goes beneath the surface of quiet lives to chart the lasting effects of love, loss and yearning. Recounted with a crystal clear ear for the vernacular of the Irish countryside, these stories articulate the pull of the land and the struggle to leave it, while the characters’ battles with their own troubles are given a presence as monumental as the landscape itself.’ Tina Jackson, Metro

‘Keegan writes with such grace and accuracy that it is impossible not to be drawn into each world she creates. Walk the Blue Fields is a superb collection in which each story is a treat; together, they are pure gold.’ Big Issue

‘Keegan’s second book Walk the Blue Fields has been keenly awaited and will win many more admirers for her poised, strange, truthful, redemptive and sometimes awe-inspiring writing. There is an extraordinary precision about Keegan’s work; the sentences ring with accuracy and are charged with meaning while never being forced. I can think of no living Irish writer who describes the natural world with greater grace … Keegan’s prose leads you to look again. And she shares with Anne Enright, one of contemporary Ireland’s very finest novelists, an ability to find resonant beauty in the everyday. The world may be hard, and in the work of these two exceptional writers it often is, but there is a miraculous consolation in describing it … This stunningly accomplished book locates her amongst the greatest practitioners of the short story form now writing. To have achieved so much with only a second collection is cause for celebration indeed.’ Joseph O’Connor, Sunday Independent

‘The best collection of short stories by any Irish writer in recent years. These are strange, haunting, sometimes funny tales, utterly unique in their way of seeing life. I can’t remember the last time I felt such awe when reading the work of a new writer.’ The Week

‘The first two tales in this collection are among the finest short fiction I have read in several years, which includes the new tales in John McGahern’s posthumous New and Selected Stories. That’s how good Keegan can be. The remarkable title tale follows a priest on the day of a wedding … “Parting Gift”, which opens the book, is a gem of compactness … Its centre of gravity resonates with such force that the story could easily stretch to a novel.’ Tom Adair, The Scotsman

‘An exquisite second collection.’ Gloss Magazine

Walk the Blue Fields confirms Keegan’s intuitive near-mastery of the short-story form. In the seven stories here, Keegan pursues trajectories of failure and obsession with a measured, almost documentary reserve, and in a prose style that never deviates from clear, crystalline beauty throughout … Truly this is a great collection. Let it break your heart.’ Val Nolan, The Stinging Fly

‘It’s a pleasure to read a writer who has truly grasped the art of the short story, and can capture the soul of its subject in such a short space.’ Danielle McGrane, Irish Mail on Sunday

Read Tessa Hadley’s review of Walk the Blue Fields in the London Review of Books here