Intimacies exquisitely charts the steps and missteps of young women trying to find their place in the world. From a Belfast student ordering illegal drugs online to end an unwanted pregnancy to a young mother’s brush with mortality; from a Christmas Eve walking the city centre streets when everything seems possible, to a night flight from Canada which could change a life irrevocably, these are stories of love, loss and exile, of new beginnings and lives lived away from ‘home’.

Taking in, too, the lives of other women who could be guiding lights – from Monica Lewinsky to Caroline Norton to Sinéad O’Connor – Intimacies offers keenly felt and subtly revealing insights into the heartbreak and hope of modern life.

Praise for Intimacies

“These 11 stories are sharp and impactful accounts of young women traversing modern life. As a writer she has a glorious skill for creating narratives in which every element works in perfect tandem: the balanced precision of a Calder mobile in literary form. The result is a collection in which there genuinely isn’t a single dud — a minor miracle. Intimacies is a memorable and unmissable book from one of Ireland’s most essential writers.” (read full review)
Barry Pierce, The Sunday Times

“…every one of these stories is faultless. There is a stunning, original talent at work here: a sharp political mind, a precise observational eye, and an extraordinary capacity for empathy. […] This is something like the effect that Caldwell achieves in her stories. She makes us feel the hidden rivers running beneath our ordinary lives. These spare 156 pages contain, if you’ll pardon the allusion, multitudes.”
Irish Independent (read full review)

“One of the truest short story writers we have. With Intimacies she makes the short story her own. Imaginatively, emotionally, even formally, the stories contained here take her work to a new pitch of achievement. I can think of no more complete collection. Read. Read again. Remember now and then to breathe.”
Glenn Patterson

“Beautifully illuminative of women’s lives today. This is work of the highest quality which enlightens and enriches the heart.”
David Park

“Caldwell writes with such sensitivity and humanity, and always encourages us to rethink what we already know.”
Elif Shafak

“Caldwell explores what it means to be a woman with devastating honesty, warmth and compassion. She manages to get underneath the skin of her characters exploring situations which are unique, yet heartbreakingly familiar.”
Jan Carson

The Bookseller

“The book I relate to most. I read it shortly after the birth of my second child, and I felt an immediate affinity with the violent emotions of new motherhood that she describes.”
Pandora Sykes

‘Precise and beautifully controlled fictions but with strange, wild energies pulsing along just beneath the surface. A tremendous collection.’
Kevin Barry, author of Night Boat to Tangier

‘Heart-stoppingly good.’
Lisa McGee,
writer and creator of Derry Girls

Reading & Interview

Lucy Caldwell talks to Dr Caroline Magennis and reads from Multitudes and Intimacies

Further Reading

Multitudes: a post-Troubles, cliché-free, intimate portrayal of Northern Ireland

Lucy Caldwell’s short story collection Multitudes occupies a unique place within the Northern Irish literary canon. It will doubtless be of interest to readers of contemporary fiction, the short story and women’s writing.

photo by Eamonn Doyle

The stories focus on the theme of coming-of-age and have associations with Northern Ireland, but they are a steep departure from both Caldwell’s earlier fiction and previous Troubles writing by women. The conflict isn’t foregrounded but is barely there, in traces rather than as a narrative catalyst or backdrop. The stories take place at various times: broadly from the 1990s to the contemporary moment, and are dense in both nostalgic detail and an acute eye for the violence of adolescence and the complex process of negotiating a burgeoning sexuality.

Northern Irish fiction has often been squeamish about questions of sexuality, often using intimate encounters as metaphors for political life. Caldwell’s representation of sex has always deviated from these tired tropes, such as the “sexy widow” who initiates a young man or the cross-community affair which carries the weight of the conflict on its bare shoulders. Instead, she brings to the fore smaller and more complex moments. (read the full article at the Irish Times)


Short Stories