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

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (February 18)

Apart from being visited by a sickness bug courtesy of dear old Saint Valentine, this week has been relatively uneventful on any other front so without further ado…

This Week on the Blog

I posted four reviews this week, all of very different types of books starting with a review of a Non-Fiction book by one of my favourite authors; Margaret Forster with her memoir My Life in Houses.

My excerpt post was for an upcoming classic read, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton which I aim to have read before the end of February.

This Week in Books featured the authors Reginald Hill, Lucy Mangan and Kelly Rimmer.

On Thursday I posted my review of Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns which was the first book read and reviewed for The Classics Club. A review that sparked a lot of interest proving once more that us book lovers are interested in the old as well as the new.

This was followed by another Non-Fiction review, this time The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by the oh so knowledgeable Martin Edwards, full five stars from Cleopatra Loves Books.

My final review was some contemporary fiction, The Last Day by Claire Dyer that nearly poleaxed me because it had far more depth than might be assumed when you learn it is the story about a man moving in with his ex-wife with his young girlfriend in tow. I was lucky enough to receive an author post explaining why she wanted to explore the love triangle in this novel.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell which was one of my favourite reads in 2017. This book is set in 1920s Brooklyn during the Prohibition period. Rose our narrator is a typist in the Police Precinct there and we hear her thoughts on the other typists who she feels superior to. And then Odalie joins the typing pool and Rose’s life is thrown into disarray. In my review I comment that Rose isn’t so much an unreliable narrator as a nebulous one, even at the end of the book I found it hard to pinpoint exactly where the truth ended and the lies began… A superb character study in a time-period and place I know far too little about so all I can say is it had me hooked and oh, that ending!

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover

Blurb

New York City, 1924: the height of Prohibition and the whole city swims in bathtub gin.

Rose Baker is an orphaned young woman working for her bread as a typist in a police precinct on the lower East Side. Every day Rose transcribes the confessions of the gangsters and murderers that pass through the precinct. While she may disapprove of the details, she prides herself on typing up the goriest of crimes without batting an eyelid.

But when the captivating Odalie begins work at the precinct Rose finds herself falling under the new typist’s spell. As do her bosses, the buttoned up Lieutenant Detective and the fatherly Sergeant. As the two girls’ friendship blossoms and they flit between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the precinct by day, it is not long before Rose’s fascination for her new colleague turns to obsession.
But just who is the real Odalie, and how far will Rose go to find out? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

No NetGalley additions and I still haven’t bought any books in 2018 but still some books arrived through the letter box; what’s a girl to do?

I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise from No Exit Press as I’d seen this book on social media and was longing to find out more. The Emperor of Shoes will be published in July 2018.

Blurb

Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in southern China, where his father runs their family-owned shoe factory. Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, but as he explores the plant’s vast floors and assembly lines, he comes to a grim realization: employees are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex’s own father is engaging in bribes to protect the bottom line.

When Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy, his sympathies begin to shift. She is an embedded organizer of a pro-democratic Chinese party, secretly sowing dissonance among her fellow labourers. Will Alex remain loyal to his father and his heritage? Or will the sparks of revolution ignite?

Deftly plotted and vibrantly drawn, The Emperor of Shoes is a timely meditation on idealism, ambition, father-son rivalry and cultural revolution, set against a vivid backdrop of social and technological change. Amazon

From The Dome Press I received a copy of Twin Truths by Shelan Rodgers which will be published on 15 March 2018.

Blurb

What is the truth? And how do you recognise it when you hear it?

Jenny and Pippa are twins. Like many twins they often know what the other is thinking. They complete each other.

When Pippa disappears Jenny is left to face the world alone, as she tries to find out what happened to her other half. But the truth, for Jenny, can be a slippery thing. Amazon

From the Borough Press I have a book of short stories by none other than Lionel Shriver called Property. I was a fan of We Need to Talk About Kevin and I greatly enjoyed her sliding doors style novel The Post Birthday World so perhaps this mixture of short stories and a couple of novellas will reignite the spark.

 

Blurb

This landmark publication, the first collection of stories from a master of the form, explores the idea of “property” in both senses of the word: real estate, and stuff. These sharp, brilliantly imaginative pieces illustrate how our possessions act as proxies for ourselves, and how tussles over ownership articulate the power dynamics of our relationships. In Shriver’s world, we may possess people and objects and places, but in turn they possess us.

In the stunning novella “The Standing Chandelier” (‘a brutal treat’: Daily Mail), a woman with a history of attracting other women’s antagonism creates a deeply personal wedding present for her best friend and his wife-to-be.
In “Domestic Terrorism,” a thirty-something son refuses to leave home, resulting in a standoff that renders him a Millennial cause célèbre.
In “The ChapStick,” a middle-aged man subjugated by service to his elderly father discovers that the last place you should finally assert yourself is airport security.
In “Vermin,” an artistic Brooklyn couple’s purchase of a ramshackle house destroys their once passionate relationship.
In “The Subletter,” two women, both foreign conflict junkies, fight over claim to a territory that doesn’t belong to either.

This immensely readable collection showcases the biting insight that has made Lionel Shriver one of the most acclaimed authors of our time. Amazon

And from the author Jane Davis I have a copy of her upcoming novel Smash all the Windows which will be published on 12 April 2018.

Blurb

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of metafiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art. Amazon

So what do you think?

Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have  read 5 books and since I have gained 4  my TBR has fallen to a respectable 185

Physical Books – 108
Kindle Books – 54
NetGalley Books –23

I have banked another third of book token this week and as I haven’t bought any books I’m now 2 whole books in credit!