These stories are not written by the person who has lived my life and made the best of it, they are written by people I might have been but decided against.
They are written by women who take a different turn in the road. They are the shed skins of the snake.
Reading this introduction, I dove into this book with great expectations.
Well, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.
The opening story starts off really strong. Here, a woman discovers her husband’s latest infidelity by his reaction to news of his lover’s accidental death. She holds an uneasy relationship to her own rage as she tells herself:
I am not that kind of person. I am not going to … show up at the cemetery to … pick up a few words here and there, about what a fine girl she was, ‘irrepressible,’ ‘full of fun.’ Bloody right she was full of fun.
Anne Enright’s writing is amazing, absurdly good, close to poetry. And there is a lot of variety. Some stories really stood out sharply in my mind. Little Sister deals with a girl dying of anorexia seen through the eyes of her sister. Felix is almost disturbing showing a middle-aged woman unapologetically having an affair with a school boy.
However, personally for me, there were just too many short stories within the book (almost 20, I think). Towards the end, all the characters and stories sort of blended into each other, so much so, that it just seemed one long lament by women facing some crisis in their lives.
Something else I found difficult to stomach were some of the very ambiguous life choices her characters make. Many stories dealt with married women cheating on their spouses with apparently no pangs of conscience. In most cases, the husbands and the lovers are not drawn clearly at all, so it was difficult for me to figure out why she was having an affair. The sexuality was also a little too open and in your face for me.
I would have also appreciated a few light-hearted stories that made me smile. Life is not always gloom and doom, and stories should reflect that aspect too, I think.
Overall, I would say her writing is absolutely wonderful, I love her way with words. I just would have appreciated it more if the anthology was better edited, and some of her vaguer stories left out. As it stands, it felt sometimes that the book would never end.