The Pre-War House and other short stories by Alison Moore

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The Pre-War House and other short stories by Alison Moore

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: A superb collection of hauntingly sad short stories from the author of The Lighthouse. Full of tender surprises from the past.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: May 2013
Publisher: Salt
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1907773501

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Alison Moore's Pre-War House is a collection of 24 short stories, only three of which are original to this collection, but most were first published in the last couple of years and, unless you are a an avid reader of The New Writer they will probably all be new to you. Moore's themes tend to concentrate on fairly dark characters, usually with a hidden secret, and more often than not dealing with the past and frequently some kind of personal loss or anguish. If you enjoyed Moore's Booker Prize shortlisted The Lighthouse, you will find plenty to enjoy here as most of the stories have a similar hauntingly sad feel to them. With one possible exception, a very short piece called The Yacht Man which did nothing for me, the stories are beautifully judged and equally satisfying, often saving a final hit or a surprise until the end of the pieces.

The only very slight reservation I have over this book is that, as a collection rather than a set of stories intended to go together, it is probably better to dip into it and read two or three at a time rather than reading the book from cover to cover. Many, though not all, of the pieces are of similar length and construction and so after a while it becomes a little repetitive. This is compounded by the order of the stories. Whoever has complied the collection has, perhaps understandably, chosen to put stories with recurring themes next to each other - the sea for example - and until the last third of the book my sense was that it was crying out for a little more variation. The final stories though are more varied - perhaps that is their 'theme' - and as a collection, it would benefit from some of these sprinkled earlier in the book in my view.

Taken individually though, almost every story works beautifully and Moore is clearly a master of the short form writing. They are atmospheric, often sad and dark, and weighed down my memory. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the final story with gives the collection its title. This is a longer piece than most of the others, as a daughter sells the family home which stirs memories of a surprising life within the four, pre-war walls of the house.

In some ways the collection mirrors Moore's style in each story; just when you think you know where it's going, you start to get some surprises towards the end, with a couple of stories, Small Animals and Late in particular that verge on the horror genre. To call Moore's short story style formulaic is unfair and implies a lack of creativity, but you can certainly discern a structure to her approach in this collection and it's one that works very well. Like all the best short stories, they have a clear story arc to them leave the reader with a situation that opens up a whole other set of thinking about each one. You almost cry out for more Moore with each one. Unlike many short writing collections, Moore's collection are all what I would call genuine stories with none of the experimental creative writing that many such collections include and that's a good thing.

Personally, I would have shaken the order up like a snow globe to give more variation but that reflects the fact that I was reading it from cover to cover. As a collection of stories that you might put by the bedside to dip into when you cannot face a longer novel though, none of the stories disappoint.

Our grateful thanks to the kind people at Salt for sending us the collection.

The Pre War House opens with a quote from the author of Ancient Light and there are similarities in her approach and style with Banville. If you are looking for a similarly strong collection of short stories, Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod would be a good place to start.

Buy The Pre-War House and other short stories by Alison Moore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Pre-War House and other short stories by Alison Moore at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Pre-War House and other short stories by Alison Moore at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Pre-War House and other short stories by Alison Moore at Amazon.com.

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