A collection of short pensive stories about loss and reflection.
These centre around the sad topics of death, illness, divorce and suicide, with the advantage of a mature perspective. The stories show how people adapt, cope with trauma, how and if they are changed by certain life events.
Reading these tales is a slow and thoughtful process. Being middle-aged helps to identify with some of the scenarios, certainly if you're a man, but sometimes it is simply to absorb the manipulation of the language and the clipped sentences. The 'winterage', a term one character uses for the weight his wife had put on, is an example of how many of the women are defined by their weight (and appearance generally) in all of the stories, which comes across as judgemental. 'She had a wobbly, knee-bent gait from a demanding life.'
The stories are of noticeably different lengths but the theme of dissatisfaction runs through them all so the tales appear a little repetitive. By the end of the book, the reader feels a little bit sad. The best of them though, is the final one, Second Language, about a couple who had married for a second time. Two very different people who enjoyed each other's company but had distinct ideas what marriage was about. Told equally from both perspectives, the woman said 'If you married a second time you had the right only to expect pieces of what the first marriage contained...' A fascinating depiction, one which I wished was a full novel replacing the reported text at the beginning.
A talented and insightful writer and a clever and moving book. Recommended.
Also by Richard Ford:
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