Tuesday 10 May 2016

Mini-Reviews: The Thing Around Your Neck, Treats & Sweet Home

The Thing Around Your Neck, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
218|Fourth Estate|1st October 2009

From the Orange Prize-winning author of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ come twelve dazzling stories that turn a penetrating eye on the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Nigeria and the West.

In ‘A Private Experience’, a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she's been pushing away.

In ‘Tomorrow Is Too Far’, a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death.

The young mother at the centre of ‘Imitation’ finds her comfortable life threatened when she learns that her husband back in Lagos has moved his mistress into their home.

And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly in reach, a death in her homeland forces her to re-imagine them.

Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow and longing, this collection is a resounding confirmation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s prodigious storytelling powers.

I'm a bit intimidated by the list of awards and oceans of praise that follows Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie so I wanted to start with her short story collection. And now I’ve bought all three of her novels to devour!

Adichie grew up in Nigeria and now splits her time between there and America, and so are the 12 stories in this collection. I was quickly embarrassed by how little I know about Nigeria, its history, politics, culture and religions. I knew nothing, and I’m ashamed of how that part of the world is completely ignored in Western education. I learnt a lot about the structure of families, education and the history of violence in Nigeria, particularly Lagos where a lot of these stories are set.

The Thing Around Your Neck deals a lot with the clashing of culture between Nigeria and America. I found it really interesting how alien the US is to Adichie’s heroines as that was how I viewed the cultural discussions about Nigeria. There are both extraordinary and ordinary women in both ordinary and extraordinary situations and I just couldn’t wrap my head around how in depth I got to know Adichie’s heroines in only 20-40 pages. I was blown away by her skill at drawing characters and they feel how Virginia Woolf describes her approach to writing characters: “I dig out beautiful caves beneath my characters”.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a masterful storyteller and considering what she can do in a short story, I’m incredibly excited to dive into her novels.

Treats, Lara Williams
144|Freight Books|3rd March 2016

“Dance like nobody gives a crap. Drink like you don’t have a family to go home to. Love because what else is the point.”

So says one of the characters in Lara Williams’ extraordinary debut short story collection. Treats is a break-up album of tales covering relationships, the tyranny of choice, and self-navigation. This fresh, beguiling new voice paints a portrait of contemporary adulthood, balancing wry humour with a pervading sense of alienation in the digital era.

Williams’ characters struggle with how to negotiate intimacy within relationships and isolation when single, the pitfalls and indignities when dating, dragged down by dissatisfaction. Meanwhile the dilemmas of life play out, including abortion, depression, extra-marital affairs, infatuation, new baby anxiety, bereavement, hair loss, sexual ethics, cats, and taxidermy.

I picked up Treats purely because of the glowing reviews it has received on booktube and I was completely blown away. Lara Williams’ debut is possibly my favourite short story collections and one of my favourite books of the year so far.

Lara Williams’ debut collection is comprised of 23 short fictions about the trials and tribulations of being a mid-twenty-something/early-thirty-something in 21st Century England. Lots of the stories are quite dark and gritty, but they remain fresh and funny. Practically each story is a punch in the throat in its own right and I had to take a small break in between each story to digest what I had just read.

Though most of the stories deal with the same overarching themes: the disillusionment of adulthood, the disappointment with life and leaving behind the idealism of university, but Williams’ also tackles some really serious topics with honesty and frankness, featuring people from across the board so it's impossible to get bored. Or even to guess what is coming in the next story – it kept me on my toes and I didn’t want to stop reading.

Treats is fresh, sharp, funny and brutally honest and I’ll be reading everything Lara Williams writes. If you’re stumbling through adulthood wondering how on earth that happened, this is the collection for you.

Sweet Home, Carys Bray
192|Windmill Books|25th February 2016

They say there’s no place like home. It’s where the heart is…

Meet the little boy who believes in miracle.

Meet the mother who loves to bring babies home from the newborn aisle of the supermarket.

Meet the husband who carves a longed-for baby out of ice as a gift for his wife.

Meet the widow who is reminded of romance whilst standing at the kitchen sink.

In this prize-winning short story collection, Carys Bray weaves together moments of joy, heartache, sadness and unwavering love as told through seventeen very different notions of home.

Carys Bray’s short story collection is one I've wanted to read since hearing about it across booktube and I really enjoyed it.

The collection covers all facets of home and family: the sadness, the struggles, the joy, the frustration, the everyday and the magical. I loved the mixture of realism and magical realism in Sweet Home. Some of the stories were achingly sad and packed a real punch and others were really quite unsettling. The variety kept me on my toes and each story was nice and short.

I really like the themes of the collection and the writing in Sweet Home so I’m definitely interested in reading Bray’s novels.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a message, I'd love to hear from you!