Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this novel.
I often feel that short stories are given short shrift by reviewers. People seem to review each story as a novel and are often disappointed if every story isn’t up to a certain standard. For an author I can imagine the genre of short story feels like an indulgent treat. It must offer such a sense of freedom. All those snippets of ideas that come to you on a daily basis are able to be fashioned into a story. It’s doesn’t have to have the length of a novel but it is a way to indulge creativity.
As a reader, I love a short story. I love the fact that I can dip in and dip out and I also find it very freeing that if I don’t like one story, I can move on…no hard feelings.
William Boyd is an author I have loved for a long time. I love his writing, language and characters. Without a shadow of a doubt I can forgive Boyd if I don’t love each one of his short stories (which as expected, I didn’t) but the stories I loved are like having a box of Cadbury Heroes…tiny minatures stories written by one of my favourite authors.
For me, the opening and ending stories were my favourite. Ludo, the art dealer who gets his kicks in life from kissing women other than his wife. His dalliances go further however, when a young woman presents him with the opportunity of selling a painting by Freud.
I also loved the tale of the actor Alec Dunbar. An actor who turns up at an audition only to be told they were expecting an actress called Alexa Dunbar. This leads him to take on a job, delivering a package to Scotland. What I loved about this story is it ended in a completely different place than where is started….the story became something I wasn’t expecting.
I really enjoyed the fact that the majority of the characters in the stories work in the arts in some manner. As someone who is also in the arts I found Boyd’s characters and their lifestyles very real and believable. The titular Bethany Mellmoth really rang true. Flittingthrough numerous jobs in the hope that one would be a perfect fit. Alex Dunbar taking a delivery job just to earn extra cash when an audition doesn’t go his way.
If you are a fan of William Boyd but not a fan of short stories I urge you to pick this book up. You might not love every story but there are some total gems.
Thanks again to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.