Short stories, some funny and some sad but mostly sad; Giller Prize shortlister this year; whimsical tales with a whiff of magic realism; sweet and subtle CanLit in tiny, flavourful bites.
Other works and awards from Heather O’Neill:
- Lullabies for Little Criminals (Canada Reads winner in 2007, Governor General’s Award shortlister 2007)
- The Girl Who Was Saturday Night (Giller Prize shortlister 2014)
A sampling of story titles from this collection:
“The Gypsy and the Bear”
“The Dreamlife of Toasters”
“The Saddest Chorus Girl in the World”
“The Holy Dove Parade”
“The Wolf-boy of Northern Quebec”
A repeated trope I loved:
Grandparents as storytellers and purveyors of tall tales; the idea that narrative can be inherited, passed down from generation to generation, trusted if not entirely believed.
A repeated trope I disliked:
Listlessly sad women protagonists; women protagonists without passion or drive who are whirled around by circumstances and other people without an iota of control; women who are treated badly through and through – by stepfathers, sisters, and the people they love.
“Was a piece of paper with a daydream transcribed on it any more concrete than the daydream itself?”
“He was probably going to get a vicious strain of Canadian clap that no doctor would be able to cure.”
“She thought it was only a fairy tale that you could drink yourself to death.”
I prefer to read short stories one by one and digest them over time, and when I’m faced with a beautifully thick collection I feel the need to read them in a chunk- which is why I generally avoid short stories collected together in book form.
I originally wasn’t totally convinced that this should be a Giller Prize shortlister, but O’Neill’s sweet and subtle Canadian undertones give these short stories a wonderful colour – something I wish I could see more of in CanLit. I don’t know if I see it taking the big prize, but I’m glad to see it on the shortlist and I recommend it for short story lovers everywhere.