Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Property – Lionel Shriver

Short Stories
4*s

At last I’ve found a short-story collection that I thoroughly enjoyed. This collection is centred around property be it the real-estate variety or belongings and there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t enjoy. The short-stories are book-ended by two novellas but the majority of the other ten stories are between twelve and twenty pages long.

One of the things that I’m sure helped my enjoyment was that I didn’t read them all back-to-back as I usually do and I’m sure that meant that my brain had time to absorb the wonder of one before journeying onto the next.

In each one Lionel Shriver not only unerringly captures the human characteristics as she most famously did in We Need to Talk About Kevin, but also has an eye for detail which quickly drew me into the storyline, so very important in this format.

My favourite story was The Chapstick which follows middle—aged Peter Dimmock as he leaves his home late to fly to see his dying father. It isn’t the warmest of relationships and over the preceding years there had been other mercy missions. Once the author has given us the background to the characters we arrive with Peter, late, at the airport to catch his flight. And it’s into security. Living on a small island which necessitates flying fairly frequently this section was brilliant. Peter is also a frequent and responsible flyer but his internal monologue matches my frustration, which the absolute rule is, you’re not allowed to express:

He pulls out his Ziploc, no larger than one quart size, containing shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste, no more than three point four ounces or one hundred millilitres, making sure to put his baggie, in accordance with the standard specifications, on top of his overcoat, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE STUPID BAGGIE IS GOING INTO A GODDAM X-RAY.

The best thing is this one comes with a bit of a moral and made me smile.

I should say at this point that the stories aren’t all set in the US, the last novella is set in Northern Ireland, The Self-Seeding Sycamore, probably the sweetest story in the collection, is set in London and Kilfi Creek is about a young woman who invites herself to stay with an older couple who are more immune to the twenty-three year old charms than she could ever imagine.

The stories subjects range from an artist’s piece of work and a platonic friendship in the first Novella to the petty-mindedness of American Sarah Mosley who begrudged her flat-mate an olive (yes, really!) in the last novella. We have undelivered mail and the thorny problem of negative equity which causes a couple to stay together when to all intents and purposes their marriage is over.

I loved the variety not just in place and subject but in style. Most have evidence of the author’s famous acerbic tone, but some had this element considerably softened allowing a different ‘voice’ to be heard. What they all had in common was that the stories are memorable (another problem I routinely have with short stories, particularly when they are all by the same author. Despite the fact I’ve read this collection over about a month and therefore read quite a few other novels in between, as I looked down the titles I had no problem remembering the key elements of each one.

I’d like to thank the publishers The Borough Press for providing me with a copy of Property. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 19 April 2018
Publisher:The Borough Press
No of Pages: 317
Genre: Short Story Collection
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

9 thoughts on “Property – Lionel Shriver

  1. This does sound like a great collection, Cleo. Sometimes, those collections can be uneven, but it sounds like this one was good all the through, and that’s fabulous. Perhaps you have the right idea about not reading all the stories at once.

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  2. I don’t often read short story collections, but this one does sound tempting. I like the excerpt from the security at the airport. I’ve had frustrations in this situation!

    I like the idea of letting each story sit with you a while before continuing. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I can relate to that frustration about airport security. I know it’s meant to be for our protection but the ever increasing g list of things you have to take off or take out of luggage is ridiculous. I’m just so glad I do t have to travel for work any longer.

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  4. Sounds excellent, but since I already have two of her novels sitting unread on my TBR, I should probably read them first! She’s one of these writers I’m almost sure I’ll love but just can’t seem to get around to… I can’t understand anyone begrudging anyone else a horrible olive! It would be different if it was, say, a Malteser… 😉

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  5. Sounds great Cleo. Like Fiction Fan, I have We Need to Talk About Kevin in the TBR & it’s been there forever – I keep putting it off! She does seem to be an incisive writer so I really need to start…

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  6. I have never read any Lionel Shriver except for her short story for “Reader, I married him”, but it seems her short stories are top quality. I’ve just begun to read shorter fiction (for my shorter attention span!) and I’m adding this to my list right now.

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