YOU THINK IT, I’LL SAY IT by Curtis Sittenfeld (Doubleday €20.50)
THE ten stories in Sittenfeld’s first collection are a total treat.
Savvy and ruefully wise, she burrows beneath the shiny surface of her well-to-do characters and unearths the flawed thinking that leads to misunderstandings and emotional upset.
Her disillusioned lovers, vaguely unhappy parents and dissatisfied employees misjudge other people, while in the grip of laughable, delicious self-delusion.
There’s a gleeful exploration of the working relationship between a journalist and a presidential nominee — read Hillary Clinton — in The Nominee; an emotionally non-committal man involved with his brother’s partner in Plausible Deniability; and a wife who develops an entirely one-sided crush on her bitchsession companion, who devastatingly reveals ‘you’re fun to talk to’.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything beyond itself in The World Has Many Butterflies.#
THE SING OF THE SHORE by Lucy Wood (4th Estate €18.20)
THE sounds of the sea and the weather ripple through these eerie, exceptional stories set in a Cornwall that is, by turns, moody and melancholy, wonder-filled and woebegone.
The collection opens with Home Scar and a ‘cowshitty sea’, where a restless young boy and his ramshackle friends break into a holiday home.
It closes with By-The-WindSailors, in which the ‘easterlies cut across like scythes’ and a hard-up family tries to make the best of living in a caravan.
In between are tales of haunted houses, surfers hoping not to be wiped out by life and a reckless, across-the-rocks treasure hunt that ends in an unexpected emotional revelation.
LAST STORIES by William Trevor (Viking €17.95)
THERE’S a world of melancholy in these final stories from Trevor — a world where lies, infidelity, extortion, theft and fickleness tip-tilt the lives of characters who are already struggling financially and emotionally.
Trevor’s prose style is effortless, elegant and economical, but manages to contain the most hugely difficult feelings: jealousy, guilt and a yearning regret.
A forsaken wife tries to come to terms with the death of her unfaithful husband (At The Caffe Daria); a piano teacher accepts that her most gifted pupil is also stealing from her — ‘there was a balance struck: it was enough’ (The Piano Teacher’s Pupil); and, in The Crippled Man, a woman conceals the death of her cousin in order to keep his pension coming in.
A truly bleak, but beautiful collection.