Honeydew by Edith Pearlman

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Honeydew by Edith Pearlman

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A collection of short stories previously only published separately from a hugely respected author with years of accolades on her mantelpiece. The literary accomplishment jumps out so it depends on engagement with the eclectic individual tales. Me? There were those I loved and others that may be an acquired taste.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: January 2015
Publisher: John Murray
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444797015

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American short story writer Edith Pearlman brings us a compilation of stories that have only been seen separately in magazines over the years. This follows on from the huge success of Binocular Vision (in 2013), the short story collection that led to Ms Pearlman being presented with the National Critics' Circle Award.

Indeed, one look at Edith's work will confirm her literary talent as we witness ease as she practices her now trademark examination of snapshots from everyday life. For me this works best when it's combined with quirkiness as in Deliverance, a wonderful little episode outlines the results of a kitchen serving the disadvantaged taking on a new employee. In this warm, feel-good tale that dabbles at the edges of fantasy, we gradually find out that Mimi isn't your average cook or manager.

Edith can also evoke nostalgia with a deft touch and, in the case of The Lightness of Happiness, in only five pages. It may be short but we hang on every moment of a child's search for security causing us to think about our pasts in the process.

Sometimes the author concentrates on the minutiae more than the big picture which can be a little distracting. For instance, the titular Honeydew centring on a head teacher and anorexic pupil at a residential school has a satisfyingly enigmatic ending. However it jumps back and forth between the characters, causing the interconnecting lives to feel slightly disjointed rather than flowing. Perhaps this could be a literary device to show that the characters' lives are disjointed and it just left me slightly frustrated?

Whatever our opinion, no one can ever say that they know what to expect in one of Ms Pearlman's collations. A topical tale of female genital mutilation (What the Ax Forgets the Tree Remembers) shares the same volume as Puck, a charmer of a vignette about a certain antique shop acquisition.

Indeed I love short stories and never cease to be surprised and delighted by some in any anthology. Honeydew (the collection rather than the story) is no exception although the gentle ambling style and considered descriptions may seem like just marking time to as many as those who'll luxuriate in the style before the subtle twists take hold. To use a Forrest-Gumpian analogy, short stories are always like a box of chocolates: sometimes we'll pick one with a divine centre and at other times it's the surrounding chocolate that wows. In the case of Honeydew there are some lovely flavours and, if you enjoy a more languorously observant writing style, confections that will stay in the memory for a long time to come.

Further Reading: If you love short stories or perhaps are just setting out to discover what sort you prefer, why not try the short story selection box that is The Best British Short Stories 2014 by Nicholas Royle (editor)?

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Buy Honeydew by Edith Pearlman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Honeydew by Edith Pearlman at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Honeydew by Edith Pearlman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Honeydew by Edith Pearlman at Amazon.com.


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