Almost 9 full months after I read my first volume from the Faber Stories collection, I have finally succeeded in finishing off the set of the first twenty volumes! And just in time, as Faber has recently announced another batch of 10 stories to be added to the collection in October. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with these little books so far, and do plan to continue with the collection. But for today, I’ll be reviewing the last three stories I read, and then having a bit of fun ranking my favorites!
Daughters of Passion by Julia O’Faolin. 3 stars.
In this story, a woman on a hunger strike in an Irish prison recounts the events that have led her there. In doing so, she also examines her relationship with a friend, and their involvement with the IRA.
Though every aspect of this synopsis intrigued me (hunger strike! prison! Irish! delving into f/f relationships!), somehow none of them managed to satisfy me on the page. I didn’t feel any emotional investment because O’Faolin tries to use the meatiest bits of the story as concluding surprises rather than mining them for the thematic depth I was searching for. Instead of giving me an interesting lens to reflect back on the story with, those late revelations felt more like the beginning of the story I had expected to find here.
Ultimately, an adequate plot with plenty of potential that just utterly failed to engage me.
Three Types of Solitude by Brian Aldiss. 3 stars.
Much as the title suggests, in this volume we are given three short vignettes that feature entirely different characters and scenarios that each ruminate on solitude. Each main character is in some way alone, though others are affected by his choices. Two of the stories feature a sci-fi element.
The first story of this set was my favorite- a judge writes to his wife about a case he claims to be reviewing, in which a man relocates to an uninhabited island with his ventriloquist dummy, to disastrous effect. The epistolary set-up added an extra layer of intrigue, and I found the whole story immensely bizarre and enjoyable. The second story features a celebrity artist on the outs with the public; this one I found a bit slower paced and somewhat boring without a sci-fi element, but I did enjoy its irony, even if a bit overt. The third piece included another interesting sci-fi element: little electronic cubes that appear to converse with each other. The “lesson” of the story isn’t the most original, though I did appreciate the uneasy character dynamic between the couple at the heart of the story.
I flew through this book, found it very entertaining and readable, but didn’t rate it any higher because I’m sure the messages and even the simple plots themselves will fade quickly for me.
” The dummy broke the silence. ‘So what’s this “sad” business mean anyway? I mean, how often do you feel like doing it?’ / ‘Sad? Oh, sadness is just happiness in reverse. We humans have to put up with it. Just being human is an awful burden to bear.’ “
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor. 4 stars.
My last Faber Story (from this first set, at least) also turned out to be one of my favorites! I might have read this one in high school because it seemed vaguely familiar, but that didn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying the reread.
In this story, three generations- and one cat- pile into the family car for a road trip. What seems at first a satire- a rude family expecting great service and loudly complaining when anything fails to that meet their expectations- takes an even more interesting turn when their stubbornness leads them to encounter a dangerous wanted criminal.
The narration makes no attempt to tell the reader what sort of conclusion to draw from this family’s experience, though the main event of this trip is so momentous that there are plenty of conclusions available for the reader to draw. For me it was a story of two people (enemies, perhaps, or at least opposites) realizing that society is flawed, from opposite ends of the spectrum- one has faced injustice and been slighted by the strong voice of the law, the other has held herself up as righteous and lawful, only to realize that her own sense of morality won’t be enough to save her, either. For such a collection of unpleasant characters, this made for a very amusing and engaging read, and one that I think will only grow richer upon further visits.
Though Daughters of Passion went a bit unrealized, these last two stories were entertaining both in content and style, and I’d happily read both again. I do have Flannery O’connor’s complete story collection sitting on my shelf, and after this positive experience I’m looking forward to reading more of her work!
And for fun, a full ranking of the Faber Stories I’ve read so far, from most to least favorite. This list is completely based on personal preference; I’ve just reread all of my earlier reviews and considered also how well different elements of the stories have stuck with me in the months since I’ve begun reading them. The order is:
- The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes by Alan Bennett
- The Forester’s Daughter by Claire Keegan
- Come Rain or Come Shine by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Mrs. Fox by Sarah Hall
- A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
- Mr Salary by Sally Rooney
- Paradise by Edna O’Brien
- The Inner Room by Robert Aickman
- The Lydia Steptoe Stories by Djuna Barnes
- Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom by Sylvia Plath
- The Victim by P. D. James
- Three Types of Solitude by Brian Aldiss
- Dante and the Lobster by Samuel Beckett
- An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah
- Daughters of Passion by Julia O’Faolain
- A River in Egypt by David Means
- Terrific Mother by Lorrie Moore
- The Country Funeral by John McGahern
- Sonny Liston was a Friend of Mine by Thom Jones
- Cosmopolitan by Akhil Sharma
(The complete set, pictured in the order I read them.)
It’s worth noting that none of these stories rated below 3-stars for me, that the lowest on the list were simply the most forgettable and none struck me as problematic in any way. Almost all of them either delighted me or encouraged me to consider something from a new perspective, so the set was entirely worth the read for me! I’m eager to check out the next additions to the collection.
Have you read any of these stories, or other works by these authors?
The Literary Elephant