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An excerpt from'Sparing the Heather'

Each time she came it felt less like her house. There was a pot soaking on the hob, a dark mealy ribbon peeling away from its sides, the dregs of a stew of lentils or beans; Hugh only ate meat he had killed himself. The kitchen dresser had been rearranged. She had left ornaments behind, things she neither liked nor used. A pair of glass candlesticks, an Aynsley china vase. Six dark blue pottery wine goblets too heavy to drink from. A pewter ashtray. Hugh had moved them aside and they were in hasty clusters in the corners of the shelves. There were photographs in their place, faded Polaroids in assorted frames.

The kitchen table was covered with sheets of newspaper. Hugh’s shotgun was dismantled on the pages: barrel, shaft and fore-end laid out neatly, the cleaning paraphernalia less so. There were twisted rags, a roll of blue paper towels. Brass-tipped mahogany rods and its attachments: a couple of jags, a phosphor bronze brush, a tiny wool mop. An open can of lead and copper solvent that smelled like pear drops, a closed can of gun oil. The rent was in an envelope on the dresser. Mairead put it in her bag and went down the hall to Hugh’s room.

A little bit about Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy.jpg

Louise Kennedy grew up in Holywood, Co. Down. Her writing has been published in journals including Banshee, The Tangerine, Stinging Fly, in the Irish Times and Belfast Telegraph, and read on BBC Radio 4 and RTE Radio 1. Her short stories have won prizes and in 2019 she was shortlisted for both Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award and Irish Short Story of the Year. She is a PhD student at Queens University Belfast where she’s researching the life and work of the writer Norah Hoult. Bloomsbury will publish her debut short story collection The End of the World is a Cul de Sac in January 2021. She lives in Sligo, in the north west of Ireland, and is working on a novel with the support of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

See the full Shortlist