Claire Keegan’s short story So Late in the Day encapsulates a couple’s doomed relationship – an Irish, modern nod to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Little do we know in the first page, Keegan plants its prophecy; ‘the knowledge of how everything must end.’
The plot centres around dejected, repressed Cathal living alone in Arklow. Keegan meticulously selects adjectives that set up his personality; he sees the ‘blank’ sky, drinking his ‘bitter’ coffee. After an ‘uneventful’ day in his Dublin office, the narrative shifts to his recent relationship with Sabine from Normandy.
Keegan introduces Sabine and her zeal through precise details like how she browses in farmers’ markets, forages hazelnuts and bakes clafoutis. Whereas Cathal’s romantic incompetence is epitomised by his meek marriage proposal as he trails off saying, ‘You know neither one of us is getting any younger.’ After persuasion, Sabine agrees to wed and moves into his place. While still unpacking, he becomes venomously unnerved by the mere presence of her possessions ‘as though the house now belonged to her also…going around in a tracksuit, sweating.’ Noting his discomfort, she confronts him only to be told, ‘It’s just too much reality.’
Overall, a succinct story revealing how one man’s misery destroys his relationship, quenching love’s lustful delusion into its final ember. Keegan’s parable illustrates that despite the illusion of love, it’s never too late in the day to walk away.
Words: Aisling Arundel
So Late in the Day