Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Friday, 17 April 2009

"Mothers and Sons" by Colm Toibin (Picador, 2006)

The pieces are between 3000 and 18000 words long. They're all short stories in the sense that they're single viewpoint, single issue pieces. But because of their length they often move slower than many a novel. They're linear, often unsurprizing (even predicting their own endings) with a limited amount of short-story compression.

At the end of "The Use of Reason" the main character thinks of burning the Rembrandt he'd stolen because selling it is a hassle. That he doesn't consider leaving it somewhere may be related to the fact that it's a portrait of a "sour old woman" and he's just found out that his mother's loose-tongued when drunk. She's often drunk. The narrative is structured around a secret plan executed step by step. "The Name of the Game" is similarly shaped.

All but one of the stories is set in Eire. There are mothers who were singers, and several wakes with musings on how dead faces correspond to living ones. It's sometimes a new Eire, with Euros, e-mail, burning CDs, and gay raves. I liked reading them, even the ones loaded with inevitability. The final story ends well - like many of the other endings it arrives once you can guess the rest of the story.

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