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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing collection of short stories
In this collection of short stories, Samson focuses on the emotional lives and relationships of a loosely-connected group of middle-class people, all having some association with an English seaside town.

This is very cleverly done, with someone who was previously a main character appearing later as a walk-on part in someone else's life, and vice-versa. For...
Published on 13 Mar. 2011 by Eleanor

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed
Polly Samson's Perfect Lives is a collection of loosely interlinked short stories. I like the idea of interlinked short stories and several authors have tried it but few have managed it successfully. This book is no exception and the quality of the stories is uneven. I thought the first story - `The Egg' - was very good. The perfect life of Celia Idlewild is well...
Published on 5 Dec. 2010 by Damaskcat

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12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely delightful stories, 3 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Perfect Lives (Hardcover)
The other reviewers must have been reading a different book, because Polly Samson's new stories are full of delights. She's a brilliantly observant writer. She's wry and poignant by turns, with a telephoto lens-like eye for the telling detail. Her descriptions of the natural world from dragonflies and rivers to the beach or a lover's smile, are always spot-on. Far from staying in easy domestic territory - and whoever said domestic life is easy, by the way? - she succeeds in navigating such difficulties as the discovery of a spouse's infidelity, loneliness, a solitary walker's fear of an ominous stranger, the rough and tumble of family life. But don't be fooled by the ironic title: there's nothing perfect about these lives. That's because what Samson is writing about is real situations, the real hurdles we all have to face. She's a tremendous writer, never better. The book's also laugh out loud funny.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather a waste of time, 22 Dec. 2010
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MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Perfect Lives (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Perfect Lives is a collection of short stories centred around a common and rather trite theme: that ostensibly comfortable and happy middle class lives are sometimes unhappy at their core.

The trouble with stories that have a common theme is that they often feel repetitive. This is certainly no exception. Having reached the end, it is surprising just how little impression the stories have made. The cryptic titles don't give much away and, frankly, without other Amazon reviews I doubt that I could have remembered what more than a couple of the stories had been about. Some stories were so dull that I couldn't remember their beginnings by the time I got to the end.

This is not helped by the distinct lack of narrative drive in some of the stories. They seem to have been stages as set pieces, but the beauty has been invested entirely in the description and not on the story. Some of these images do work well; the coloured rags turned into rugs; the one example with all the colours of autumn for example. The placing a remote control out of reach of the husband and waiting to see how many seconds it would take for him to find a reason to take it back. But this is too little to sustain a collection - even one as short as Perfect Lives.

Then, as if the stories are not similar enough already they start to interweave. Characters pop up from one story in another. Perhaps this creates an air of community; perhaps an illusion of a common story that is bigger than the separate episodes. But in truth, they don't interweave enough to create a big story. Again, it just feels like looking at the same fragments over and over again, perhaps from slightly different angles.

Perfect Lives is arty but doesn't seem to have anything much to say. You read the words but derive no sense of meaning. Rather a waste of time.
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9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you., 4 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Perfect Lives (Hardcover)
I agree whole heartedly with the recent review in the FT for this book. It is quite simply perfect.
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Un vrai plaisir., 7 Nov. 2010
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Mme Le Bas (france) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Perfect Lives (Hardcover)
Really like the book , and try to read it very slowly, so it will last longer ! I don't finish it yet and wish it will never end. I've this feeling with books I really liake, can't pick them, read 2 or 3 pages, dream about and think about it for weeks.
Thank you, Mrs Samson.
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17 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Polly needs to leave home..., 26 Oct. 2010
By 
Ms. Felicia Davis-burden (Staines, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Perfect Lives (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I ordered this book of short stories because I had read Polly Samson's first collection and had enjoyed it. Samson's writing style is fluid and highly descriptive, although this did not work so well when she published her novel 'Out of the Picture'. I felt that she'd been rushed into it, and hoped that she would take more time out and eventually give us another book of short stories.

Now we have 'Perfect Lives', a collection of stories linked by characters and geography. Unfortunately, Samson's decision to populate the book with characters, situations and circumstances that feel familiar to her results in a sleepy reading experience. 'Writing about what you know' has been undoubtedly good advice for many writers, but I feel that Polly would benefit greatly from venturing beyond her comfort zone. Every story seems to be a variation of Samson fictionalising the life she probably has as Mrs D Gilmour.

Samson has an overused habit that annoys me: a typical cliche, to begin a story in the present with a seemingly shocking occurance, then immediately flashback to how different things had been 'at the beginning'. She has established another cliche - too many stories about failing relationships teeming with kids. Personally this is not the kind of material that 'gets' me. I'd like to read more daring tales from Polly's pen, and I'm sure she's capable of creating more complex literature than she's given us so far.

I'm sorry, Polly, but this book has bored me. You need to leave home...
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Perfect Lives
Perfect Lives by Polly Samson (Paperback - 5 May 2011)
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