The Collected Short Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis

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The Collected Short Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This is a wonderful collection from the pen of Lydia Davis. Clever, witty and sometimes a little bit waspish, everything from jury service to family loathing is here to be enjoyed word by glorious word.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 752 Date: August 2010
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 978-0241145043

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As you might expect with short stories, the themes are as varied as The Fears of Mrs Orlando to Mothers and of course, I have my own particular favourites. Most of these short stories cover a couple of pages, but others are merely a sentence or two. And, for me, the less on the page, the more impart the words usually have. In short (no pun intended) there would seem to be something for everyone in these 700+ pages.

In .. Mrs Orlando Davis tells a tale of an extremely cautious and rather frightened woman. She creeps her way through every day. It's really a living hell for her. The sentence She tries to prepare for sudden hunger, for cold, for boredom, and for heavy bleeding gives the reader a telling picture. The following sentences are deliciously witty however and the reader is drawn further into the world of Mrs Orlando. It is a delightful story and I loved it.

In the acclaimed Break It Down I knew straight away that I was in for a literary treat as soon as I read the very first sentence. To give just a flavour, a male (often Davis' characters are unnamed) is trying to bring some level of rationale to a part of his life. He's trying to give it some financial relevance. You sense the utter sadness in all of it. You want to go back and read it again, just to make sure that you've actually read what you've read, such is its blistering originality.

Davis has a wonderful observational eye which she uses time and time again, with devastating results. For example, in the short story The House Plans the central character is trying to renovate an old, almost derelict building. It is hard going and funds are fast drying up. Meanwhile, nearby, a new house is being built ... an ugly house but the new owners are obviously delighted as they move in ... sitting on the terrace and looking out over the valley as though they had box seats at the opera. Terrific description.

Mothers actually made me laugh out loud. It's both sad and hilarious at the same time. Davis often starts out with a seemingly innocent sentence - as she does here with - Everyone has a mother somewhere. Then, boom, she hits you with one of her creative blows. The gist here is that mothers, especially, elderly mothers, are generally a bit dim, cannot hold a decent conversation, always harping back to the good old days etc. And many readers can relate to this. I can almost see many readers nodding their heads in collective agreement. Davis further comments Mothers when they are guests at dinner, eat well, like children, but seem absent.

This collection was, for me, an absolute treat to read. I loved Davis' style of writing and her characters are superb. She is not afraid to veer away from the expected - in terms of presentation and I also appreciated her originality. I have so many individual favourites that it would take up far too much space to list them here. Highly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy It's Beginning To Hurt by James Lasdun.

Buy The Collected Short Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Collected Short Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Collected Short Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Collected Short Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis at Amazon.com.

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