I’m not sure what happened in Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett, but I loved every minute of it. From what I gathered, a young woman, who’s given up pursuing a career in academia, is living in a small cottage by a pond. The pond has been labeled “pond” by neighbors in an act of “moronic busybodying.” The narrator, on the other hand, does not believe in describing things in such an obvious manner.
The narrator’s tone is by turns funny, honest, angry, thoughtful as she details the mundane (searching for a replacement knob for her stove), contemplates her life trajectory (“I’ve no option but to retreat from a vocation I’ve never achieved any success from”), considers food (tomato puree!, “nicely slumped cheese”), remembers lovers, and arrives at little gems like, “without frustration there would hardly be any need to daydream.”
This book is in no way a page-turner and there’s not really a plot, but I thoroughly enjoyed drifting with the narrator as her “head is turned by imagined elsewheres and hardly at all by present circumstances.” A bit of a misrepresentation, by the way, since we spend a lot of time contemplating present circumstances such as her windowsill, her stove and her ottoman. Nevertheless, she reminded me of Fernando Pessoa’s persona Bernardo Soares, who organizes his existence around his need for time to dream and imagine.
This book is a lovely exploration through the eyes of a woman who’s frank about her body and sexuality and her “radical immaturity — characterized by a persistent lack of ambition,” which seems to be more about the desire to resist social conformity than a lack of ambition. The narrator considers at length the wonderful book The Wall by Marlen Hausoffer, about a woman cut off from the world, and fantasizes about that blessed aloneness (“there are no other human characters in the book, which was a real treat”). She tries to establish for herself a similar virginity, in the original sense of being “one unto herself,” while also navigating the human need for connection (and sex).