Saturday, 12 May 2012

Dubliners by James Joyce (4/5)

The back says: In Dubliners Joyce draws on the complete spectrum of his Irish roots and, with meticulous attention to detail, creates an intimately observed portrait of a city and its people at a time of radical social and political change. It is an undisputed masterpiece and is essential reading not only for those seeking an understanding of life in the Irish capital at the turn of the century, but for all who seek an insight into Joyce the artist and his work.

I say: I’ve wanted to read this for the longest time, and I find it so weird that I never got around to doing so. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie; the reason I’ve been putting it off is because I’ve read quite a few bad reviews about Joyce and his writing. However,

I was pleasantly surprised by this collection of 15 short stories.

The book does exactly what it says on the tin; we get to follow a set of different Dubliners for a few hours or days in their lives, and I’m glad that I’ve lived in Dublin as that meant that I knew which streets they were walking on, or some of the places they were talking about. As this is the first thing I’ve read about Joyce, I’m not particularly familiar with his writing style, but what I really liked was the warmth and care with which he handled these stories. Perhaps that was because he was from Dublin, making it easier to speak fondly of the places he had visited throughout his life.

According to Wikipedia the collection as a whole displays an overall plan, beginning with stories of youth and progressing in age to culminate in The Dead.” This is nothing that I noticed as I was reading, but I have to somewhat disagree, since the first story, the Sisters, deals with death as well as youth. So, I guess it all comes full circle in the end.

I always find it hard to review short story collections because I can’t really go too into any of the stories, and usually there’s a difference in the style of writing and feelings invoked. I really enjoyed this collection because of Joyce’s ability to make me feel as if I was there watching these people – the entire collections reads like a film. All of the major life issues are dealt with here, but there are also elements of random silliness, like the old man that the two schoolboys meet in An Encounter. You don’t have to be a lover of (or even interested in) Dublin to enjoy these stories. As with everything, it merely enhances the experience.

All in all, it’s a great collection. It gets a 4/5 because some of the stories were not really to my liking.

Favourite stories: An Encounter, After the Race, Two Gallants, and A Painful Case.


  1. I still have not read anything by James Joyce. I'm a little intimidated because of what I've heard about his writing!

  2. Don't be. I was the exact same way and reading him now I realise that I was just being silly. I've felt that way about a lot of classics. I just read another JJ book and I liked that less than Dubliners, it was definately more boring and annoying and I can see why he gets a bad rep. I'm planning on reading all of his works, so I'll let you know which ones I recommend :o)