Houses across Ireland, and indeed everywhere, hold secrets about the inhabitants. The façade painted to the outside world often masks what lies beneath and in this short story collection, Louise Kennedy, exposes the private lives of her characters in fifteen separate stories.

There is a real sense of gloom and despair in the pages. Nobody seems to be happy or trouble-free in what is quite possibly just a true reflection of the society in which we live. However, everyone’s answer to this in these particular stories seems to be to jump into bed with another character or, if they do keep sex to the marital bed, it seems sordid and disliked by one or both characters. If this is a reflection of true life it is a sad indictment indeed.

And yet there is intrigue in the tales of everyday lives impacted by, in the main, everyday events: relationships falling apart, depression, children working as sticking plasters for their parents’ problems, lifelong regrets and attempts at changing the scenery to find what it is they are looking for. In one story it is the Troubles which have been the catalyst for tormented souls and the reader is drawn into all of these tales of these quite ordinary characters as they attempt to make sense of the world around them.

But the stories, by the very nature of being short, often do not lead to satisfying conclusions. The door swings shut, the rain continues to fall, they might do this or that, but the reader is invested now and wants to know what happens to Elaine and the little lamb, to Eithne and her not quite mother-in-law and to Ciara just desperate to hear her little boy say her name. Alas, the reader is left just to imagine.

There is an obvious appeal in a book that can be dipped in and out of without having to remember the events or characters which came before and, if readers can get over the lack of punctuation around speech which can cause a bit of re-reading to grasp who is speaking, then they will find well-written and engaging work by this award-winning story writer.