A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
Published by Faber & Faber, 2019 (first published in 1953)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This offering from the Faber Stories range follows a family as they set off on a road trip across the American South. When they run into trouble, the man they flag down for help just happens to be an escaped convict.
Once you get passed the few instances of uncomfortably outdated language in here, it’s a fantastic short story. The characters feel well established (especially the wonderfully haughty grandmother); the dynamic between them clear from the off despite the story’s brevity. O’Conner utilises striking imagery to employ a heavy dose of foreshadowing and dark humour. Added to the sweltering heat of the southern setting, this makes for a fantastic sense of mounting tension as we head towards an inevitably tragic and brutal conclusion.
Its narrative is impactful in and of itself, but there are interesting undercurrents of religion and morality that add depth well worth mulling over. A great introduction to O’Connor’s work!
You can pick up a copy of A Good Man is Hard to Find from Book Depository by clicking here.
Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson
Published by Jonathan Cape, 2019
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Benson’s impassioned collection of poetry draws on mythology to explore the perils of womanhood in a toxic masculine society. The first section places Zeus in the modern world, a serial abuser full of brazen self-importance. In these pieces, Benson fuses the personal with the historical to show how sex is weaponised, victims demonised, and oppressors excused. In the second section, the poet shifts her attention to motherhood, exploring the physical and mental strain of pregnancy, birth, and caring for a child. The themes of both sections coalesce in the closing pieces, in which Benson muses on the simmering panic of raising daughters in a world still unsafe for girls; the horror of modern warfare reflected in the war on women’s bodies and autonomy.
Benson’s use of imagery is bold and impactful. There is depth and nuance to explore in the language she employs, but the meaning behind her words always shines through with punch. As such, I think this is the kind of collection that has something to offer both relative newcomers and seasoned poetry readers alike. I, for one, will certainly be reading more of Benson’s work.
You can pick up a copy of Vertigo & Ghost from Book Depository by clicking here.