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

From Belfast to London and back again the ten stories that comprise Caldwell’s first collection explore the many facets of growing up – the pain and the heartache, the tenderness and the joy, the fleeting and the formative – or ‘the drunkenness of things being various’. Stories of longing and belonging, they culminate with the heart-wrenching and unforgettable title story.

Multitudes is the beautiful debut story collection from the acclaimed, prize-winning novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell

Praise for Multitudes

‘Beautifully crafted, and so finely balanced that she holds the reader right up against the tender humanity of her characters.’ 
Eimear McBride

‘A writer of rare elegance and beauty, Caldwell doesn’t just get inside her characters’ minds. She perches in the precarious chambers of their hearts, telling their stories truthfully and tenderly.’ 

Further Reading

The world I move through is magnified, made magic, by Lucy Caldwell’s words

Glenn Patterson evokes the world that his fellow East Belfast author conjures up so well in her short story collection, Multitudes

Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The Silver Leaf Café is under new management. The Silver Leaf Café has dropped the Café. And the The.

“Silver Leaf” is all the sign says now. Well, that and “Fish & Chips”, and “Tradition & Quality”.

Actually, it’s a wonder there was ever room for the Café and the The.

Silver Leaf has a competitor 50 yards up the Belmont Road in the Bethany, which shares a name with the Biblical home of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, whether pointedly or not is hard to determine, though perhaps not so hard here in east Belfast as in other places: the café facing the Silver Leaf is owned by the Christian Fellowship Church (“we do life”), which wraps around the corner of the Belmont Road and the Holywood Road, and which also owns Eden, formerly Eat Etc, half a dozen doors along.

Eden Bridal, directly opposite that, is, I am pretty sure, unconnected. What would that look like anyway, a born-again wedding gown? The same, only more so?

I don’t know where Silver Leaf comes from. There’s a Maple Leaf club around the corner and down Park Avenue – along the side of the Strand Cinema and Arts Centre – to which I came with my parents (the Maple Leaf, that is) throughout the first half of 1971 to pay the monthly instalments on our family holiday to Toronto. Elsewhere in Ontario, elsewhere in that now-gone century, a Silver Leaf Café was listed at 116 South Main in the Ottawa City Directory in 1921 and there is a Silver Leaf Café still at 4101 Decoursey Avenue, Covington, Kentucky: “cheap and easy drinking”, the ad says, “made as plain and simple as can be”.

You couldn’t accuse them of building up expectations.

The ad doesn’t say whether or not they cut their own chips on Decoursey Avenue, as they do in the Belmont Road Silver Leaf. And yes, I know chips means something else over there. Over here, chips undergo a strange grammatical transformation once they are wrapped in paper, passing from the plural to the singular: “a gravy chip” is, in fact, heaps. Half a gravy chip would do you rightly.

You could start your Silver Leaf chip – “just leave that paper open, thanks” – the moment you walked out the café door and still not have finished by the time you arrived, by way of Dundela Avenue and North Road, at the top of Cyprus Avenue (whose trees seem as deliberately aligned as the stones at Newgrange to capture and hold the sun), or – ignoring the Dundela Avenue turn-off – by the time you reached Cairnburn Park, where the Belmont Road crosses over the A55 Outer Ring on its way to the Craigantlet Hills and out of the city altogether.

This, with the Upper Newtownards Road running parallel, with the Kings Road and Cherryvalley, constitutes the heartland of Lucy Caldwell’s Multitudes: Belfast’s “Upper East Side” as the mother in Chasing assures her homecoming daughter it is now referred to. And of course none of it need exist at all for the stories in the collection to work, for them to achieve their astonishing sense of place. That the reader believes it exists for the characters, gives definition to their lives, is enough.

Although don’t tell that to my daughters, whose hearts would acquire a chip-shaped hole if Silver Leaf (silent Café, silent The) were to be theorised out of existence. What am I saying? My daughters’ hearts? My heart: and stomach too.

And if I am truthful I feel – as I have felt repeatedly over the years hearing Van Morrison invoke Cyprus Avenue – that the physical world I move through is magnified, made magic even, by the touch of Lucy Caldwell’s words.

“That night,” says the narrator of Here We Are, “I walked the streets of East Belfast again in my dreams. Waking, the dream seemed to linger far longer than a mere dream. These streets are ours.”

She’s only partly right. Thanks to Lucy Caldwell they are everyone’s who picks up this book: are multitudes’.

(read the full article at the Irish Times)


Short Stories

Following her own brilliant short story collection Multitudes, Lucy Caldwell guest edits the sixth volume of Faber’s long running series of new Irish short stories, continuing the great work started by the late David Marcus and subsequent guest editors Kevin Barry, Deirdre Madden and Joseph O’Connor.

Eimear McBride, Kit de Waal and Sally Rooney are among the writers to feature in  Being Various: New Irish Short Stories, which brings together new stories from Ireland’s current golden age of writing and features newly commissioned works from writers including Louise O’Neill, Paul McVeigh, Kevin Barry, Lisa McInerney and Arja Kajermo.

Caldwell said: “Being Various has a brilliant array of writers making waves in the twenty-first century, from lauded names to newcomers ranging from their twenties to their sixties; Irish by birth, by parentage, or residence.”

Being Various: New Irish Short Stories is published on May 2, 2019

Being Various: New Irish Short Stories

News, Short Stories

Lucy’s collection of short stories, Multitudes, is on the shortlist for the prestigious Edge Hill Short Story Prize, which was announced on June 13. Five collections made the shortlist from a longlist of forty-one, four of them debut collections.

Prize organiser Ailsa Cox, the world’s first Professor of Short Fiction at Edge Hill University, said: “What an amazing line-up this is. All five writers are rising stars, and you’re going to hear a lot more of them in the future. In each of these collections, you’ll find passion, wit and intelligence, and above all a way of working with language that is unique to the short story form.”

The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an exclusive Short Story Prize event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on the 26th August, to be hosted by the university in the famous Spiegeltent. The event will be attended by the shortlisted authors and judges

More information can be had at the Edgehill website.


Edge Hill Short Story Prize


three-sisters-3“More than 100 years later, the three sisters are still stuck, but in Lucy Caldwell’s admirably free-handed adaptation of Chekhov’s play for the Lyric, the siblings are now mired as much in 1990s Belfast as they are in a particular point in history. In Selina Cartmell’s fluid production a fresh and uneasy peace is still stalked by soldiers, and army brats Orla, Marianne and Erin stand between a past they would rather forget and a future that has no obvious accommodation for them. Some cruelties are amplified (the sisters, defending their territory from a Chinese sister-in-law, are now flat-out racist), some subtleties are lost (the manner of the telling is unnecessarily forced), but Caldwell’s elegiac take on people in transition is absorbing and affecting, squinting uncertainly towards what is yet to come.”
Irish Times

Caldwell has made Chekhov’s play astonishingly resonant, making it alive to past trauma brutally embedded in the present. Even those at a distance to the conflict such as the three sisters stand to be utterly transformed, as a pacing peace process puts their soldiers’ futures in doubt.

It’s an immensely brave point for any writer to make, and perhaps, like Cartmell’s conspicuous staging, more difficult to accept. Those days were horrific, but they were the days that shaped Northern Ireland nonetheless.

Exeunt Magazine

Production Stills

Praise for “Three Sisters”


(Published in The Irish Times, Sep 2, 2016)


Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell is September’s Irish Times Book Club selection. The Belfast author’s short story collection, published by Faber in May, was described by Young Skins author Colin Barrett in The Irish Times as “a lively, humane book, gritty but wholehearted, and it offers an ultimately optimistic, progressive vision for the city of Belfast and the women who come from there, while never forgetting what has come before.

“Caldwell is not a writer who cultivates bleakness for its own sake, and the tone that ultimately prevails throughout Multitudes is one of tentative defiance, of a kind of celebratory bittersweetness and a refusal to finally bow to adversity.

“Set almost entirely in Belfast, featuring a succession of young female protagonists, and ordered in rough accordance with the the narrators’ ages, the stories in Multitudes collectively work as a sort of kaleidoscopic bildungsroman, tracing the archetypal milestones and tribulations of the various characters’ lives as they come of age in the city in the pre-Good Friday Agreement era.”

The Sunday Times review said: “Anyone who thinks adolescence is a happy experience should read Lucy Caldwell’s Multitudes, a series of stories about girlhood set mainly in Belfast around the time of the Troubles. Thirteen is a memorably grim tale featuring a miserable birthday party and a near rape, but most of these pieces (in a book neatly structured so that the various protagonists are older in each one, adding up to a composite whole) have something bleak or queasy in them. Caldwell captures every last sob and spew in a book redeemed by its underlying resilience and exhilarating vividness.”

Kevin Power in the Sunday Business Post wrote: “While the Young Turks and Tukesses of Irish Lit are all about the linguistic fireworks, Caldwell writes an understated, conversational prose that never advertises itself unduly.

Irish Times Book Club choice: “Multitudes”

Awards, News