Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review: Emerald City and Other Stories by Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan is a US novelist and short story writer.  I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of eleven short stories.  Each of the stories stand alone from the others, distinct and sharp, but taken together they also resonate with common themes.  Egan enters the lives of her characters at moments of self discovery and personal truth.  The characters and settings couldn't be more varied, but each story perfectly captures a moment, or moments, of reflection and meaning.  And, amidst stories of loss, loneliness and wasted time, Egan also manages to instill a sense of hope at the end of the stories.  No twists in the tale with this collection, just faultless writing that reveals something universal about human life and the personal struggle to find purpose, connection and meaning.  Yes I am rambling a bit but I loved these stories!

In The Stylist we are shown a moment in stylist Bernadette's life where, on a photo shoot in her thirties, she explores the choices she has made, their consequences, and what is great about her nomadic life.

In One Piece a young brother and sister struggle with the implications of a family tragedy years before where their mother was killed.  This is as moving a family story as you could hope for and achieves, in its 16 pages, more than many novels, in terms of conveying a story of love and sacrifice.

In Puerto Vallarta a sixteen year old girl faces the dilemma of her young life when she is confronted by the deception of her much loved father and recognises her mother's isolation and strength for the first time.

Interestingly a number of the stories occur on holidays.  This is a marvellous device, as it naturally lends itself to the process of self reflection and hopes for the future.  In Letter to Josephine, this idea is explored further, when a woman, on one of many luxurious holidays with her husband, considers the choices they both have made and the aspects of themselves they have left behind and can no longer access.

I got the impression that this collection is the result of many years work; all of the stories are so thoughtfully conceived and elegantly executed.  A Visit From the Goon Squad is Jennifer Egan's latest work of fiction and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

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