Review – A Snow Garden by Rachel Joyce

Happy New Year Everyone!

We’ve got lots of snow over here right now, which is the perfect weather for Rachel Joyce’s short story collection A Snow Garden & other stories.

A Snow Garden
Image provided by Doubleday¹

A Snow Garden features a woman having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit, two parents deconstructing their marriage on Christmas Eve, as well as a young woman giving birth at a crowded airport. There is a chance encounter at a Boxing Day Ball, two little boys spending the Christmas holidays with their divorced father, a superstar coming home for a belated Christmas party and an elderly father asking his son to plant trees on New Year’s Eve.

In seven loosely connected short stories, Rachel Joyce reintroduces well-known characters as well as new ones and shows us how they experience the time between Christmas and the New Year. Each story deals with interpersonal relationships on different levels and they all teach us that the time we spend with our loved ones is precious.

I guess which stories we find more memorable than others depends on our own experience in life. My personal favorites were the last two – “A Snow Garden” and “Trees”. Rachel Joyce did a great job depicting the difficult father-son relationships in these stories.

Overall, A Snow Garden & other stories is quick read for a cold, snowy winter weekend. I enjoyed this book much more than Perfect and Queenie.

4 Star Rating: Recommended

Review – Dear Life by Alice Munro

Hi everyone,

I hope you’re enjoying Sunday! Today I’ve got a review of Alice Munro’s short story collection Dear Life for you. Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013 and this is the first time I’ve read something she has written. I have to thank Random House UK for this copy. I got it to discuss it with other readers on Lovelybooks and to write a review.

Dear Life
Image provided by Random House UK¹
Summary quoted from Random House UK¹:

Alice Munro captures the essence of life in her brilliant new collection of stories. Moments of change, chance encounters, the twist of fate that leads a person to a new way of thinking or being: the stories in Dear Life build to form a radiant, indelible portrait of just how dangerous and strange ordinary life can be.

My Thoughts:

Dear Life is divided into two parts. The first one consists of ten short stories, the second of four autobiographical pieces. I’ll only review the short stories. As far as I can remember, all of them are set in Canada, many in the 20th century. Of course, Alice Munro knows her trade. She understands how to set the scene and how to transfer atmosphere.

In Dear Life, Alice Munro’s characters often seem to share similarities. The oppressed woman, the confused man and sometimes a child to tell us all about their problems. What struck me most, was how Mrs. Munro told stories from a child’s perspective. Especially in “Gravel”. You really think you are a child experiencing what the narrator experienced.

Unfortunately, technique isn’t everything. Don’t get me wrong, “To Reach Japan” was perfect! I also enjoyed “Amundsen” and “In Sight Of The Lake”. But the remaining seven short stories didn’t do the trick. They were okay, but I really expected more than just “okay”. While “To Reach Japan” was captivating and left me thinking, “Dolly” for example, left me indifferent.

As Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize, I’m sure there are better short story collections out there. If life is like it is shown in Dear Life, it’s mostly dull, gray and tedious.



Review – Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Who comes to your mind when you are asked to think about post-colonial British authors? Close your eyes for a few seconds; think hard; then open your eyes and tell me what you came up with. Hmh, let me think …. Kazuo Ishiguro! Does the name ring a bell? Yes? Excellent! I think it’s time to talk about one of Britain’s most eminent writers. He has won the Booker Prize for The Remains of Day in 1989. Even though his last publication was some time ago, in 2009 to be exact, this does not mean that it’s too late to talk about Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall.

Image provided by Random House¹
Summary quoted from Random House¹:

With the clarity and precision that have become his trademarks, Kazuo Ishiguro interlocks five short pieces of fiction to create a world that resonates with emotion, heartbreak, and humor. Here is a fragile, once famous singer, turning his back on the one thing he loves; a music junky with little else to offer his friends but opinion; a songwriter who inadvertently breaks up a marriage; a jazz musician who thinks the answer to his career lies in changing his physical appearance; and a young cellist whose tutor has devised a remarkable way to foster his talent. For each, music is a central part of their lives and, in one way or another, delivers them to an epiphany.

My Thoughts:

Nocturnes is Ishiguro’s first collection of short stories and consists of five parts: “Crooner”, “Come Rain or Come Shine”, “Malvern Hills”, “Nocturne” and “Cellist”. What bind the stories together are recurring themes and characters which are all tightly connected with music, musicians and music lovers. They are all written in prose style and every story has its own delightful and charming twist.

Basically, Nocturnes tells the story of people who have not yet fulfilled their dreams, about people who live ordinary lives and about the sacrifices they have to make every day. We all have a vision of who we are, but very often the world does not allow us to fulfill your dreams. All the characters in Nocturnes struggle with their lives; some get it right, some get it wrong, but they all have to overcome obstacles. I guess this is what makes the book so attractive to us normal ones. It shows that fictional characters are not superheroes after all.

When I got hold of Nocturnes, I expected to really love this collection and I have to admit that I found it wonderful in parts. It would be a lie to claim that Nocturnes is absolutely superb, because there are a few flaws in the novel. But all in all, it’s a nice and entertaining read for everyone who likes humorous, cynical and serious stories.