The Man in the Shed by Lloyd Jones
|The Man in the Shed by Lloyd Jones|
|Category: Short Stories|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: A collection of stories with a common thread of family life in all its guises. Separation, imminent divorce and the effect of all this on children are all written about in Jones' excellent style.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: July 2011|
|Publisher: John Murray|
|External links: Author's website|
The title is certainly attention-grabbing and I hoped that the book would live up to my expectations. It did. The man in 'The Man in the Shed' is not blessed with a name. His name (whatever it is) is not important or relevant to the tale. It's all about why he's in the shed in the first place. This particular shed's in a garden of a house inhabited by a family which includes the young narrator. It's pretty clear that the marriage is going through a rocky patch right now. So who, you could reasonably wonder, is the odd one out here - the husband or the man in the shed. Jones tells us in his own way. He's a writer who catches your attention early, or he did in my case. No fancy statements or lazy cliches but good old plain English but with flair.
For example, after a bit of a scene between the parents it's explained by their son as ... this new atmosphere that the kitchen hadn't known before and Silence and anger looking for somewhere to alight. These lovely lines and similar are interwoven with everyday words so that when I came across one, I stopped and re-read it again. Jones does not need to shout out his talent from the rooftops, as it were, it's there in every single page. Lines which I wanted to re-read several times because they were so good. Sometimes it's implicit in gestures or a nod of the head by a particular character and at other times it's in the dialogue, or in the description eg: These days he was shy as a guinea pig.
Most of the stories are based in New Zealand (where Jones lives) so there's a fair amount about nature and wide, open spaces. All of this gives an unhurried, almost ethereal quality to the whole book.
There's another terrific description which really caught my attention. A baby has sadly died at birth. The baby was not given a name by the parents, instead the baby was always referred to thereafter as poor little bugger. Simple, poignant and very effective, I thought. It's enough to put a lump in the throat.
The stories vary in length as well as in subject matter. There's a very short but succinct story called the things that distress me the most. A mere half a dozen pages or so but my, does it have impact. Told by a fastidious and rather narrow-minded married woman as she tells us about the awful night her husband drank too much on a night out (that was his story anyway) and ended up 'sleeping rough'. Her character traits show through at every turn. It's very witty.
In short story collections it's natural that we all have our favourites. I was however, lukewarm about the one entitled the simpsons in russia. But then in the following story I found the dialogue top-notch. Most deal with family life and its ups and downs and also about love in all its shapes and forms. And I had to wait right till the end to find my favourite, amateur rights which I thought so creative in its scope and language.
The back cover blurb describes this book as a haunting collection. I would add to this that once I'd read a story it stayed with me, even when I'd started the next one. So I slowed down and took my time to savour each and every one (well, bar that single one). Highly recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might like to try The Empty Family by Colm Toibin.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Man in the Shed by Lloyd Jones at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Man in the Shed by Lloyd Jones at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.