A River in Egypt by David Means
Published by Faber & Faber, 2019
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
This is the first of the Faber Stories range that sadly didn’t work for me. It wasn’t bad, per se, but a story about a father’s anguish as he awaits a potentially life-changing diagnosis for his young son should have made me feel emotional or tense. Instead, I have to concede that I felt a little bored by its tangential style.
I suppose it’s a snapshot of a moment. It explores the idea that illness affects a whole family, and that sometimes ignorance is bliss. It just never gets into the grit of the situation or the characters’ mindsets enough to leave any lasting impression beyond the power of its concept.
You can pick up a copy of A River in Egypt by clicking here.
The Haunted Boy by Carson McCullers
Published by Penguin, 2018 (first published in the 1950s)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This slim volume collects three short stories by McCullers, often described as a master of the Southern gothic. The prose throughout is sensitive and observant, yet highly readable, and though this was my first taste of her work, it certainly won’t be my last.
The title story, The Haunted Boy, was far and away my favourite. In it, a young boy arrives home from school with a friend. Unsettled by his mother’s inexplicable absence, he determines to keep his friend there as long as possible. What unfolds is an unbearably tense and poignant look at why the boy fears being alone, and why his mother’s disappearance causes so much anxiety. Exploring love, trauma, mental health, and the pain of things left unsaid, it’s a truly fantastic example of short fiction at its best. [5*]
The Sojourner is a melancholy though charmingly hopeful read about the unique nostalgia that comes from reconnecting with an ex-lover, and seeing them well established in their new life. far less impactful, but still a pleasant read. [3*]
A Domestic Dilemma is a snapshot of a family’s private crisis, unfolding behind closed doors. It explores a father’s fear for his children’s wellbeing and his own reputation as his wife slips into the grip of alcoholism. It’s a perceptive look at how fine the line between love and hate can be in domestic situations. [4*]
You can pick up a copy of The Haunted Boy by clicking here.