Friday, 18 September 2015

Taking Pictures by Anne Enright (3.5/5)

First published: 2008
Page count: 240
The back says: The stories in Taking Pictures are snapshots of the body in trouble: in denial, in extremis, in love. Mapping the messy connections between people - and their failures to connect - the characters are captured in the grainy texture of real life: freshly palpable, sensuous and deeply flawed.

From Dublin to Venice, from an American college dorm to a holiday caravan in France, these are stories about women stirred, bothered, or fascinated by men they cannot understand, or understand too well. Enright's women are haunted by children, and by the ghosts of the lives they might have led - lit by new flames, old flames, and flames that are guttering out. A woman's one night stand is illuminated by dreams of a young boy on a cliff road, another's is thwarted by a swarm of somnolent bees. A pregnant woman is stuck in a slow lift with a tactile American stranger, a naked mother changes a nappy in a hotel bedroom, and waits for her husband to come back from the bar. These are sharp, vivid stories of loss and yearning, of surrender to responsibilities or to unexpected delight; all share the unsettling, dislocated reality, the subversive wit and awkward tenderness that have marked Anne Enright as one of our most thrillingly gifted writers.

I say: This is a tricky collection to review because I really loved the first few stories, but then felt my interest waning as I inched towards the end. Perhaps it is merely a matter of me being able to better relate to them because I can’t say that the writing changed in any way.

I’m not sure.

Either way, this is an excellent and coherent collection of women’s lives in different situations and emotions; all Irish, and all looking for something. That is probably what I found most fascinating; that none of them seemed to feel complete. I suppose most of us wonder if we ever really are, but it was interesting to see the many ways their thoughts and actions reflected this search.

A very astute collection, and I look forward to reading more by Enright. 

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