by Anne Enright
Grove Press, $24
To begin with, I can’t write about this incredible volume of stories without mentioning that I was unsure whether I could appreciate Anne Enright’s writing style upon my first reading of the Man Booker Prize winner, The Gathering. But I underestimated her understated, slippery prose. Upon the second reading, I realized that a full appreciation only awaits those who examine the sinuous sentences crafted and cleverly placed for the discerning reader to discover. The themes and ideas, expressed in silkily, playfully realistic phrasings, then fully come to light and dance across your consciousness.
In light of this, a reading of the Irish author’s new offering Yesterday’s Weather was approached with this knowledge in mind. To my delight, the stories produced the same pleasures of last year’s prize winner, only more so.
Most of the stories are twelve pages in length or less. Two excellent consequences result from this brevity. The highly imaginative tales, almost all of which have female narrators, have Ms. Enright’s characteristic style, but honed to perfection, in which not a word is wasted. Secondly, they have the classically longed-for “I want to know more” factor, which I associate with other noted (yes, Irish) modern short-story writers such as William Trevor and John McGahern. Comparison with Trevor also is relevant in the deeply humane delineation of life’s absurdities and with McGahern in the shedding of a highly realistic light on relationships, especially familial ones.
I have a few favorites, called favorites partly because they reminded me of things that I already knew, but had somewhat forgotten.
The first is “Honey”, about Catherine, a woman trying to psyche herself up to have sex with a known womanizer (not her husband) while coping with the death of her mother.
“Little Sister” is an elegiac told by a young woman whose sister, Serena, is leading their family through a harrowing, prolonged bout with anorexia.
The story “Yesterday’s Weather” is told, at turns, in melancholic and hilarious fashion by Hazel, relating the everyday painful realities of trying to manage an infant and a marriage while saddled with an often clueless husband.
As mentioned by the author in her introduction, the stories are presented in reverse chronological order, the earliest being published in 1989, and she likes the idea of seeing herself “getting younger… as the pages turn.” Ms. Enright wants to think of them as “a gift…presented not just to the reader, but also to the future – in my case, to an old woman called Anne Enright, who will read this too, with a bit of luck, and laugh.”
This great collection truly is a gift, and I plan on savoring it again in the very near future.
Friday, September 5, 2008