Carys Davies’ The Redemption of Galen Pike is one of the best collections of short stories I have ever read; second only to Salinger’s Nine Stories – if you know me, that’s saying a lot. A lot.
The stories in The Redemption of Galen Pike are unique, insightful, and infused with an honest and quirky view of human behavior. Davies has a beautiful understanding of the various psychologies that drive people, and a wonderful sense of compassion which she expresses through vivid characters, and story arcs endowed with a sharp sense of humor.
There wasn’t a single story in this collection that I disliked; they each had their own beauty – but there were a couple that didn’t grab me as much as the following standouts:
The Quiet: Honestly, this is one of the most perfect short stories I’ve come across. It is stunning and beautifully timed. It may seem odd to talk about timing when it comes to literature – but, as in comedy, timing is everything in shaping the perfect short story. Davies captures how strong and valuable a single connection between two humans can be.
The Bonnet: Simple. Bittersweet. Mildly heartbreaking. And based on one of my favorite authors, Charlotte Brontë.
The Travellers: In this piece Davies shows off her wonderful (and slightly dark) sense of humor. Most couples will get a kick out of this one…and maybe see a certain aspect of life in a different perspective.
The Redemption of Galen Pike: Just like “The Quiet” this one is also perfect. I’ve been contemplating how to come up with the best way to capture how impactful this story is. But, the best way for you to find out is to read it yourself.
Rating: 5 Pink Bonnets
It breaks my heart not to be entirely in love with Sylvia Plath’s poetry collection Ariel. The Bell Jar is one of my favorite novels, and what I’ve read of her journals is breathtakingly beautiful. This is not to say that Plath is an untalented poet, but this collection on the whole doesn’t speak to me in the way her prose does.
However, the poems that do speak to me. Wowza. “Lady Lazarus” is stunning (one of her more famous pieces for a reason), I am also a fan of “The Rival” and “Night Dances”.
It is a difficult and perhaps an unfair task to rate a poetry collection since poems are such personal pieces of art. So, my rating is based strictly on how it spoke to me, and not a blanket statement of my opinions of Ms. Plath’s writing.
Rating: 3.5 Irretrievable Smiles
I claimed my last review would be short and sweet, but it was pretty much the same as all my others.
Ironically, this one truly will be.
Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo is a long time beloved classic for a reason. An exciting tale of revenge with a brilliant and charming lead, it is filled with adventure, romance, and villains. The Count of Monte Cristo keeps you on the edge of your seat, and pulls you in to Dante’s quest to reverse the ill fortune bestowed on him.
Though it took me an embarrassingly long time to read this novel, I chalk that up to my ADD and stubborn desire that all books be 300 pages or less, not Dumas’ inability to keep me hooked. Something about the essence of this novel reminded me a bit of, one of my favorites, Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Dumas is a favorite among my family, and I am glad to have joined the club.
Rating: 4 Prison Bars
I preferred tea
He drank his coffee black
There was never any milk in the house
I drank my coffee black too
I didn’t mind
We’d come alive at night
In the magic of
My favorite part
Tinted with a bittersweetness
We listened to Tom Waits
And the sounds of bacon
Laughing in bed
Making plans that would
Being our true selves
Being what was
I really wanted tea
But I didn’t mind
Drinking my coffee black
I have spent the past week in inner-conflict over how to approach reviewing Tana French’s In the Woods. So dramatic of me, I know. But, I have strong feelings over certain aspects of this novel, and I have been torn on how to express them without ruining the reading experience due to its genre. So let’s make this short and sweet (er, well, maybe sweet isn’t the right word when it comes to this topic).
Tana French is a gifted writer. Her style is easy and poignant; she knows how to keep you wanting more without over-doing the drama (unlike other people you know who review books…like this one). She beautifully, and eerily, sets the tone of small town Ireland in the middle of serious turmoil (anyone have a tally on the number of times I’ve used the phrase “small town” this year?). Creating a dark and damp atmosphere filled with believable characters. French handles the all too realistic and heart wrenching subject of crimes against children in a delicate and impactful manner.
All that being said…I do have two major issues with In the Woods, and therein lies the source of my neurotic battle. If I even hint at these issues it could potentially have a deeply negative and distracting effect on those of you who opt to read this book (which you should!) – and then how could I ever live with myself? So, I will say this. The problems that arose for me in In the Woods are legitimate flaws, but, fully understandable (and forgivable) ones for a first novel. They will in no way deter me from continuing on in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series – in fact, I am truly looking forward to the next one. Therefore, I highly recommend this book for mystery fans.
Rating: 4 Pints