With fierce imagination, a woman revisits the moments that shape her life; from crushes on teachers to navigating relationships in a fast-paced world; from overhearing her grandmothers' peculiar stories to nurturing her own personal freedom and a boundless love of literature. Fusing fantasy with lived experience, 'Checkout 19' is a vivid and mesmerising journey through the small traumas and triumphs that define us - as readers, as writers, as human beings.
About the author
Claire-Louise Bennett grew up in Wiltshire and studied literature and drama at the University of Roehampton, before moving to Ireland where she worked in and studied theatre for several years. In 2013 she was awarded the inaugural White Review Short Story Prize and her debut book, Pond, was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2016. Claire-Louise's fiction and essays have appeared in a number of publications including White Review, Stinging Fly, gorse, Harper's Magazine, Vogue Italia, Music & Literature, and New York Times Magazine.
The judges on the shortlist
Fred D’Aguiar on 'Checkout 19'
'Checkout 19' performs a mind at work. Claire-Louise Bennett creates this propulsive and compulsive prose that champions the impossibility of cohesion in life as nothing short of a desideratum. She performs fragments culled from libraries and lived and overheard, often misconstrued, experiences, with lucrative results for the story. She indemnifies memory and sanctifies the imagination. A woman’s body is its undiscovered country, a life indebted to reading is its bequest.
The narrator’s swift exploration of thinking introduces an apparently unrelated set of circumstances from her life and reading by a seemingly spontaneous thought process of loose associations. She sifts each topic (nothing is off limits) with humour, insight, and compositional elegance. Just as the reader begins to think that the thread is lost, the author picks it up and weaves it into the fabric of the story with startling and bravura effects. Bennett’s studied chaos, studded with shout-out-loud instances, forms this harmonious, fragile, and memorable whole.