With the exception of those by Somerset Maugham I am not a lover of short stories. However I can now add Anna Gavalda to Maugham. This book comprises a dozen short stories and a novelette (if there is such a thing) entitled Someone I Loved. When, a few weeks ago, I commented on her novel Hunting and Gathering I said that it was, apparently, a departure from her previous two books in that it was not a dark story of love denied nor lost nor roads not taken. As I had not read this book I relied on a reviewer for that information. Yes, this is a book of 'what if' and love denied and lost (and found and rejected for that matter) but I'm not sure that I would describe it as dark.
I have the feeling that many, many people if they were to read this book would feel distinctly uncomfortable. I spent a lot of time during the reading of Someone I Loved denying that I had ever acted like that. I had always been honest. Or had I? Whatever else this book achieved it made me feel uncomfortable.
Anna's style (I'm living in New Zealand at the moment and we don't do surnames here - OK I did for Maugham but that's different!) is controversial. It's staccato and leaves the reader to fill in a lot of the foliage. This would be totally alien to anyone who likes Anthony Trollope or admires descriptive writing for its own sake but for people like me who, generally speaking, cannot be arsed with the fluff and description and just want the story (because I'm a very slow reader who reads a novel as if it were a law book) her style of writing is ideal. I actually find it very pleasing as well.
Anyway I thought this book was quite thought provoking in a fairly light way and I enjoyed it very much. Would I recommend it? You know, I'm having great difficulty with that question. CJ recommends without hesitation books which I would never dream of reading. Not because they are not good books (I'm not sufficiently well-read to pass an opinion on that) but because they are subjects which don't interest me. Anna writes of people, situations and emotions. You will learn from her books nothing of history, nor science, nor, perhaps, very much for that matter. But they will stir you. And if they don't then you and I are very different people. There is only one way to find out.
Ah, yes, we are are we not?
A bottle of Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertain 1986. Baby Jesus in velvet britches. [Possibly the most extraordinary descriptive phrase I've read, but I think I understood what was meant.]One of the few things I remember from school is a theory by one of those ancient philosophers , who said the important thing isn't where you are it's the state of mind you're in. He wrote that to one of his friends who had the hump and wanted to travel. He basically told him that it wasn't worth the trouble since he was bound to lug his load of problems around wherever he went. The day the teacher told us that, my life changed.I guess that your face is a place that touched my life.The trap lies in thinking that we have the right to be happy."You like squash and I like swingball, and that explains everything..." . . . . ". . People who are rigid inside are always bumping into life and hurting themselves in the process, but people who are soft - no, not soft, supple is the word - yes, that's it, supple on the inside, well, when they take a hit they suffer less...I think you should take up swingball, it's much more fun. You hit the ball and you don't know where it's going to come back, but you know that it will come back because of the string, and it makes for a wonderful moment of suspense. . . . . ""You, you're like my father, you have nostalgia for the mountains.""Which mountains, Mouschka?" I would ask."Why, the ones you've never seen, of course!"