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Friday, 13 January 2012

Book Review: Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue

I picked up this short story collection after reading Donoghue's novels Landing and Slammerkin. There are nineteen stories in this collection, grouped under the headings 'Babies', 'Domesticity', 'Strangers', 'Desire' and 'Death' - all certainly touchy subjects. There wasn't a story in the collection that I didn't enjoy although, of course, I had some favourites!

'Expecting' examines the way a lie to a stranger can spiral out of control. I particularly enjoyed the way this contained very little dialogue but I didn't notice until afterwards because it was so well written. That was the case in 'Good Deed' as well, when a man stops on the street when he suspects a homeless man might be seriously ill. In both of these, the narrative voice is strong enough to make dialogue redundant.

There are a couple of LGBT themed stories in the collection which I really enjoyed. 'The Cost of Things' is about a lesbian couple and their sick cat, while 'Team Men' looks at young man discovering his sexuality while on his father's football team. 'The Welcome' is another excellent story which I won't ruin for anyone.

My absolute favourite was probably 'WritOr'. It follows the unnamed writer-in-residence in his year-long role at a college. He has to deal with intimidating parents, students who mask their own life badly in fiction, poets who spew word vomit onto the page during a first draft and refuse to change a word of it. All sound familiar? I guarantee 'WritOr' will bring a smile to any writer's face.

All in all, I loved this collection. Short and snappy stories with distinctive voices and little jolts of surprise scattered throughout. If I didn't already adore Emma Donoghue's writing I'm sure this would've converted me.

I read this collection as part of the Library of Clean Reads 2012 Short Story Reading Challenge.  


Laura Fabiani said...

I have never read anything by this author and I'm glad you enjoyed this collection. WritOr would probably bring a smile to my face too.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Sounds good. I like short stories and I like what I've read of Donoghues work

Ellie Warren said...

I have only read Room but have thought her other writing sounds quite different. Maybe a short story collection is the way to go!

CharmedLassie said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

Ellie - From what I've seen, she flits around all over the place but is one of the few authors who can accomplish it. Of course, it depends what kind of stuff you enjoy but it's all quality in the particular genres.

Jules said...

This sounds like an interesting collection of short stories, thanks for bring it to my attention and the good review.