After reading Writers and Lovers and loving it so much last summer, it felt like an awesome opportunity to read Lily King’s short story collection as an advance review copy. I wondered if she would master the shorter form as much as she did for character development over 300 pages. In short, I’ll spoil it right away: yes she does!
There’s some things I’d enjoyed in her novel that I found again in her stories: the ability to make the reader care about these characters, the density each of the characters have, sometimes by some anecdotes that seem superfluous but that you end up remembering all too well, the sudden tragedies and a right balanced between being distanced from the characters and a certain sentimentality (but it’s definitely not a romance – see the eponymous story). Most stories resonated with me, even though I missed the point of some others (probably bad timing and fatigue on my part, you need to focus not to miss the clues, like in the story “Creature”)
This collection has 10 stories and I can say I loved 6 of them, the seventh took me into a rollercoaster but mostly for fun (“The man at the door”) and three weren’t really for me. That’s a great tally for a collection! I wanted to confirm if Lily King could use another voice than the one of a young female aspiring writer, and I was fully reassured! She can do teenage boy, Southern belle, grieving mother, she can even do a 90 year old man (“Waiting for Charlie”)!
“When in Dordogne” is probably the most striking story of the book. A lonely teenage boy stays home with two house-sitting university students while his father (a university professor) and his mother travel to France for the summer. The two students are a breath of fresh air and fun in an otherwise very dark and dull home. By the end of the summer the boy will have grown so much, an experience he will remember for years to come.
In “North Sea”, a recent German widow is taking her daughter for a vacation with the hope that the girl opens up to her and talks about her grief. In “Hotel Seattle”, a gay man agrees to meet with an old friend who had reacted strongly when he’d come out twenty years or so before. In “Timeline”, a young aspiring writer / waitress (an alternate version of the one from Writers and Lovers?) moves in with her brother and his girlfriend.
This collection has convinced me to look into Lily King’s back catalogue. I want to discover her other novels and I wish she’d had written more short stories!
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley. I received a free copy of this book for review consideration.