Indelible Acts

indelibleThe twelve stories in Indelible Acts are variations on a theme of longing – the unassuagable human need for contact, for completion, for that most fugitive gift of all:
reciprocal love. Its characters’ lives are thwarted, dashed, impassioned, each in their own way immolated by hope.

A queue outside a cheese shop leads to a thrilling infidelity; a crematorium funeral exposes a love gone sour; a foreign hotel room becomes a diorama of despair as physical sickness becomes a metaphor for incurable grief. In the title story, two lovers confront their lusts amid the ruins of Rome; in ‘A Bad Son’ a young boy from a damaged home searches for some kind of peace in the newly fallen snow.

Each story in this mesmeric new collection is an epiphany, a revelation: eloquent, excoriating – saved from bleakness by humanity and humour – unflinching and unwavering in its scrutiny of desire and loss. Justly celebrated as one of the most original young writers at work today, A.L. Kennedy writes stories of such intimacy, such aching honesty, that they are impossible to forget.


Most of the reviews for “Indelible Acts” were distressingly favourable, although many were also rather scary – which is why the review categories here differ slightly from those listed for previous publications.

A review (in French) of AL Kennedy’s Indelible Acts is on line :


“…rich originality and humanity of a writer, still in her thirties, who is becoming on of Britain’s very best.”
Katie Owen The Times

“This is Kennedy’s fourth collection and again she shows herself to be a mistress of her art.”
Michael Arditti The Independent

“It is Kennedy’s assured humour and her psychological astuteness that rescues (sic) this immaculately crafted collection from a well of utter desolation.”
Helen Brown – The Daily Telegraph
Not that a well of utter desolation is any bad thing, I always say…

“And the humour is magnificent.”
Michael Thompson-Noel – Financial Times

Someone finally noticed I’m trying to be funny from time to time.


“As always with Kennedy, the intense craftedness is occasionally oppressive…”
John O’Connell – Time Out

“If Kennedy wants to avoid becoming the next generation’s queen of hopeless longing, her characters need to get out more.”
Sarah Smith – Literary Review


“Not all the men have committed adultery…”
Katie Owen – The Times

“…Kennedy has suffered many years of back and neck pain – a fact that may have helped shape an artistic sensibility in which emotions are often manifested through physical symptoms.”
Susan Flockhart – The Sunday Herald

The kind of guess that academics usually make. In fact, if you think about it, most people’s emotions are manifested through physical symptoms. And I started writing about people and their emotions long before my back packed in. (Which, incidentally, tends to blur rather than enhance your understanding of physicality.)

“A.L.Kennedy lives on the edge and so do her characters.”
Michael Thompson-Noel – Financial Times

Actually, a nice cup of tea is the highlight of my day.

“…it is better to have loved and suffered than never to have loved at all.”
Allan Radcliffe – The List

All together now – Oh, no it’s not.

“Among her gifted generation of Scottish writers, she stands supreme, she stands alone.”
Tom Adair – Scotland On Sunday

Possibly the silliest thing anyone has said, yet. But if you ever want to be put on a pedestal, Tom has one and is an enthusiastic reader and nice man and so forth.


“A.L.Kennedy has long been established as an extraordinary writer of ordinary agonies.”
Alice Ferrebe – Scotland On Sunday

“Kennedy writes with flaying precision about the things we won’t often admit to ourselves, let alone speak aloud.”
Charlotte Mosley – Daily Mail

“Kennedy reigns supreme in describing the terror and fascination of self-annihilation, whether corporeal or emotional.”
Rosemary Goring – The Herald

“Couples torment and betray one another as a matter of course.”
Michael Arditti – The Independent

“It’s a brilliant, but extremely painful read, sparsely populated with chokingly desperate characters. If you’re feeling at all emotionally precarious, it could tip you right over the edge. But if you think you can keep your balance, these 12 stories are the most devastating you will read this year. ”
Helen Brown – The Daily Telegraph

I think this should be on the cover of the paperback edition – like the health warning on cigarettes…

“Many of these people fear judgement and punishment; there is an interesting Calvinism in Kennedy’s world view which she exploits to advantage.”
Catriona Crowe Sunday Times


Books of stories are, of course, especially plagued by contradictory reviews – usually picking out one story that A loves and B detests and so forth. Or you can always argue about forms… And people wonder why writers don’t find reviews entirely helpful.

“Kennedy is an intense, unbending writer, and no more so than here, but some readers may find themselves wishing for some of the black magic realism that infects her novels and makes her best writing take flight.”
Claire Allfree – Metro

“Her third person novels… seem farther distanced, producing a billowing sense of shapelessness, a drag from which her stories never suffer.”
Tom Adair – Scotland on Sunday

“AL Kennedy’s last novel… was a huge epic of a book. Indelible Acts is a slim volume of short stories, but equally as satisfying.”
LR – The Big Issue

“…in A Wrong Thing … I found it hard to find any sympathy, let alone interest…”
Sarah Smith – Literary Review

“A Wrong Thing is a virtuoso slice of writing about an obsessive, thwarted by illness and paranoia…”
Tom Adair – Scotland On Sunday