The Madonna of the Pool by Helen Stancey

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The Madonna of the Pool by Helen Stancey

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Amy Etherington
Reviewed by Amy Etherington
Summary: This is a quiet collection of stories that deals with moments of loss and disappointment in everyday life. Whilst delicately written and easy reading, some of these stories sadly fall a bit flat.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 142 Date: December 2016
Publisher: Fairlight Books
ISBN: 978-1912054008

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In most short story collections, an overarching theme is usually present in each of the narratives which help each story gently flow in to the next. In this debut collection Helen Stancey explores the quiet disappointments, achievements, and complications that each of us experience through everyday life. She draws attention to the small events and decisions that can both disrupt and significantly alter the lives of others and ourselves, all while maintaining a delicately poetic tone throughout.

This is a quiet collection of stories, in that it doesn't feel as though you're being bombarded with dramatic imagery or metaphors. Instead, Stancey has pieced together a collection that feels subtle and truthful to the human experience without feeling overwrought. Each story follows a different character – or group of characters – as they deal with a significant event in their lives, usually one of disappointment or loss but the meaning behind each of them is how the characters move on from their experience. Overall it's a realistic portrayal of human endurance captured in twelve short stories, each intently focused to create a snapshot of the characters' everyday trials and triumphs.

I find short story collections great when you want a bit of variety in your reading and whilst Stancey has a poetic and dreamy way of writing, the stories didn't stick with me as much as I hoped they would. As I said, this is a very quiet collection which draws attention to the small yet challenging events in life, but I confess I did find some of them quite dry. The story that I enjoyed the most was Shall We Dance? which followed the character Anna as she attended her mother's funeral, where she quietly reminisced on her childhood memories of her mother. Whilst a sad story it brought focus to Anna's relationship with her own children, and how with death comes life – an inevitable cycle we are all a part of. I found it to be the most thoughtful story in the collection and the one that moved me the most.

The other stories, while good, didn't strike me as especially memorable. Stancey's style is certainly readable and effortless in its execution but I just wasn't 'wowed' by it, which is what I was hoping for. However I did enjoy the similar tone that ran throughout each of the narratives; each story has a feeling of melancholia wrapped within it but simultaneously there is also a hint of hope and ambition beneath the sadness. I guess what Stancey was hoping to get across from this collection is that where there is disappointment, there is also optimism. For me however, while there were one or two memorable stories in this collection, the rest were simply okay. I would like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For more short stories I would recommend checking out The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson which is an excellent collection or perhaps Dear Life by Alice Munro for more stories which explore the raw honesty behind human relationships.

Buy The Madonna of the Pool by Helen Stancey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Madonna of the Pool by Helen Stancey at

Buy The Madonna of the Pool by Helen Stancey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Madonna of the Pool by Helen Stancey at


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