Review: Intimacies by Lucy Caldwell

Title: Intimacies
Author: Lucy Caldwell
Publisher: Faber Faber
Publication Date: December 2, 2021
Genre: Short Story, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: ☕☕☕☕ (4.5/5)
Content Warnings: highlight to view {kidnapping, abortion, domestic abuse}

Intimacies: Eleven More Stories by Lucy Caldwell (via Goodreads)

Can I call you up by sheer force of longing? The answer was always no, but it didn’t seem to stop me from trying.

Intimacies was a random find when I visited Waterstones on a random weekend… and damn did I stumbled upon a unique gem. This is a collection of eleven short stories penned by someone who was born in Belfast (where I am right now!). I initially picked this up as I felt this was a great way to explore Northern Irish literature but I didn’t expect to find an exciting female author with such an interesting writing style (and in short story format, nonetheless!).

There’s just something about the way Lucy Caldwell writes that constantly sends a throb down my chest while I was reading it – and I am definitely hooked. Most of the stories in this collection dove deep into the psyche of young women and mothers (not mutually exclusive) – eliciting through the random musings of her characters the burden and privilege of motherhood, the fears that came with it. All the stories were great but I have a couple of favorites – or at least those that I can’t stop thinking about:

The third story, “People Tell You Everything”, is my favorite in this collection – which briefly touched several (personally) hard-hitting topics: a love lost (“There were some days when – for no real reason at all, the angle of the sun, the cloudlessness of the sky – I’d be sure he’d message me again.“), loneliness, the insecurity of aging, and belonging, among other things. Exactly the kind of story I would want to read and ~feel~. There’s also “Words for Things” (you can read it HERE) which started with a random musing about Monica Lewinsky and ended with a bittersweet sentiment of “you’ll never be loved so much again“. There’s “Night Waking“, which was personally anxiety-inducing and triggering so please take caution before reading it. And of course, this collection’s pièce de résistance: “All the People Were Mean and Bad” (you can read it HERE), which detailed an encounter with a stranger in a red-eye flight from Canada – where the narrator reflected on where she is right now, where she was, and where she could possibly end up with. It was a deeply emotional moment, highlighted by an intimate connection formed in the most unexpected of places. This story won the BBC National Short Story Award in 2021 – and I can definitely see why.

…and you think that love gone wrong or astray is also a kind of exile.

With a very clear perspective that just shows through her writing, Lucy Caldwell managed to delicately evoke various (oddly specific) feelings that are usually hard to put into words. It was interesting, reading through this – particularly because of how ‘quiet’ the whole collection was. This is the sort of book that inspires me to write, just write. That reminds me that stories don’t have to be explosive. That there’s room for the quiet ‘in-betweens’ – and that they are just as compelling a story and, sometimes, even more hard-hitting.

Love being a holding-close and simultaneously a letting-go

Honestly? I just wanna hold this book close to my heart. Despite everything (there were a couple of circumstances that lead me to pick this book up that I would really rather forget), I really feel lucky to discover Lucy Caldwell and her writing. It’s been a while since I’ve loved a short story collection this much. Most of the stories in this collection were written in 2nd person POV – which have always felt weird to me in storytelling but Lucy Caldwell made it work so well. It felt intimate… and raw. The last time I was in awe, even with the use and placement of a simple comma, I was reading Murakami. If you know my reading preference, THAT is a tall order. And now, I’m glad I was able to find a female author that can breathtakingly draw out ~that feeling~ (I mean, I love Murakami but he seriously has some issues in writing female characters).

Intimacies was such a great read. I think I’m picking up her ‘Multitudes‘ next. Highly recommended!



A couple (okay, maybe a lot 😅) of quotes I absolutely loved. I was almost tempted to make a Reading Diary post because I just love her words!

But maybe chance has been toying with me for years.

You knew, and didn’t know. Sometimes it seemed that all of my life had been knowing and not-knowing. As if it was a technique rather than a state; a safety mode, a way of coping. There were words for things now that we hadn’t even realised were things, because there were no words for them.

Her heart aches with the weight of all that is impossible to explain.

You have made, she writes to him, an orphanage of our lives.

She writes – has always written – to survive.

That the Law of Attraction aligns us to a reality that matches the way we feel, so that longing, much-wanting, must by its very nature lead you to an experience that lacks what you desire, or else how could you continue to long and feel more want? That everything happens for a reason, because what a cruel world it would be if we could only learn through pain, and how confusing the lessons if they only broke our hearts.

and even if there’s no real metric to grief, there is, must be, a hierarchy to loss.

We think, or rather we live – or at least you do, or have – as if things will continue forever, and we so rarely talk about the only things, in hindsight, that matter. All of these words, these thousands of words, and none of them the right ones, the handful of words that might have meant or even changed something.

But what if eternity does not mean endless time, but an escape from it? What if, from the perspective of eternity, time is a droplet, held together by its own surface tension, everything that had happened, or ever would, taking place simultaneously, and already over?

We think the tests will come on the days we’re ready for them, braced and prepared, but they don’t: they come to us unheralded, unexpected, in disguise, the ordinariest of moments.

I repeat to myself daily that every day, every moment of each day, is a chance to respond to the world with love, not fear. That fear is not an equal and opposing force, but rather the absence of love, a symptom or signal of something askew or astray. But I am terrified of making the wrong choices. Of doing the wrong thing. I am terrified of getting in the way of your life.

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About the Author

Lucy Caldwell was born in Belfast in 1981. She is the author of four novels, several stage plays and radio dramas, and two collections of short stories: Multitudes and Intimacies. She won the BBC National Short Story Award in 2021 for ‘All the People Were Mean and Bad’. Other awards include the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the George Devine Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and a Major Individual Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Irelan. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018 and in 2019 she was the editor of Being Various – New Irish Short Stories.

Author Website | Twitter

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭 and currently based in Belfast. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at .

4 thoughts on “Review: Intimacies by Lucy Caldwell

    1. Thanks for commenting as always, Tasya. I hope you’ll be able to pick this gem of a book up. 😊


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