I am on a book reviewing tear. I know, it doesn't look like it. Probably because I haven't exactly been on a book reading tear. The upshot of that unfortunate fact, however, is that it makes it easier to boost my book reviewing ego when I am essentially keeping up with reviews of the books that I am reading instead of 10 books behind.
Lately, I have made another attempt at short stories. Short stories and I have a checkered past. I don't really like them on the whole, but occasionally I come across one or two that I really like. Reader, I Married Him seemed like a natural choice since I once had Jane Eyre as required reading and actually liked it (When does that happen?), so stories inspired by that famous novel seemed an obvious place to look for a short story hit.
My reaction to Reader, I Married Him covered the usual bases of my reaction to short story collections. A little, "What was the point of that?" with a side of, "I don't get it..." Some, "This is good, but I wish it was a whole book." And, of course, even a bit of "This is really good/clever. Why have I never heard of this author?" Oddly enough, yet somehow par for the course (I am going to mostly unwittingly get *all* the sports analogies into this review, just you watch.), despite this collection running over with big name female authors, the stories I found myself the most taken with were by authors that were unfamiliar to me.
In Kirsty Gunn's selection, "Dangerous Dog," a chance encounter with a few boys and a dog whose bark is much worse than his bite changes the life of a fitness trainer taking a writing class. In it, Gunn cleverly re-imagines Mr. Rochester as a dog, and somehow manages to weave together what seem like three stories in just over ten pages. The other story that really captured me was "The China from Buenos Aires" by Patricia Park, about a Korean girl who leaves her Buenos Aires home to go to college in New York City, There she feels homesick and isolated until she happens upon a boy she knew from home, but is ordinary Juan enough to bind her to a place where she never felt at home? (Both of these stories were slam dunks. Please, somebody stop me.)
All in all, I found this to be an enjoyable collection. While I may not have been satisfied by each story, since I often find myself unsatisfied by the medium, I was impressed with each author's ability to evoke places and characters so fully in only a few pages. A word to the wise, many of the stories in the collection have, at best, the faintest of connections to Jane Eyre, so if you're seeking mostly obvious parallels, I would advise adjusting your expectations before picking up Reader, I Married Him. However, if you're looking for a solid collection by some well known female authors that is admirably diverse, definitely give this one a try!
(Thanks to William Morrow Paperbacks for providing a copy in exchange for review consideration.)