on 22 November 2010
I was seriously impressed by the versatility and range of Vowler's narratorial voice. This is uncommon writing. Bleak writing. Ambitious writing. That being said, in any collection and especially one like this that casts its net so wide, there are bound to be stories that one prefers over others.
The very best stories of the bunch are those concerning childhood and family bonds. "There Are New Birthdays Now," in which a couple's daughter has been abducted, delivers a devastating emotional punch. The story of a brother and sister who come together in the wake of their father's death ("Busy. Come. Wait") is a vivid rendering of sibling disconnection and subsequent reconnection. Another highlight is "Homecoming" in which a young offender is released from a secure unit and returns to the scene of his crime, reviewing his youthful violence with older, wiser eyes. The most moving and accomplished story of the collection is the final one, "The Little Man," in which a brother exacts revenge for acts of cruelty committed against his sister.
There were a couple of stories that I disliked, but overall this is an impressive and enjoyable collection.
on 30 November 2010
The confrontational and perversely sensual cover of this collection gives a taste of what is to come. There is madness in The Method but also sadness, pathos and just sometimes, tiny scraps of kindness in unexpected places. One involving a cat. The stories are an exploration of how people can be shaped, often twisted, by their life experiences. How a writer takes it over the edge in the title story. In Little Man, the underground setting is perfect thematically: it gives not only a sense of claustrophobia but demonstrates the grief that often lies beneath the surface - particularly in families. This is a book of riches. I enjoyed the elegant phraseology, the dryness and the melancholy. There is always an authentic sense of voice from each narrator and a wide diversity of narrator.
If someone asks to borrow this book from you, the answer should be no. Because it's a volume that improves upon each reading. The message is: Buy your own; you won't regret it.
on 24 March 2012
I like short stories, but I am a writer myself, and picky, so often I don't enjoy them as much as I expect. However, these stories astonished and delighted me by being crafted with flick-knife precision. Every word adds power to the story, every sentence draws the reader on, even into places they'd rather not go (I had to read the end of 'Homecoming' with one eye shut). Each story has a different, clear, and recognisable voice. My favourite was 'Offline', but there wasn't a single story that didn't move me. It took me a long time to read this book because each tale is so complete, and so resonant, that after I read each one I had to put the book down for a while. I have read many books of short stories in my life. This is one of the best I have found. If you like writing that churns and kneads your emotions, you'll love this book.
This is a stunning collection of short stories and an extremely accomplished debut. While a recurring feature of the stories is of dealing with events in a character's past, I was seriously impressed by Tom Vowler's range of narrators and versatility of style. It would have been all too easy to devour this book in one go but that would have done it a disservice. Like the richest chocolate, I thought it was better to savour it and read a story every now and again as a treat. Individual characters and their stories will stay with me for a long time and I just know that I'll be re-reading The Method and re-visiting them for years to come. Highly recommended reading.
on 29 March 2013
There is a theme running through the stories in Tom Vowler's debut collection: that of loss. Whether it's the loss of a child, the end of a relationship, or losing a grip on reality, all the characters are trying to come to terms with the situations in which they find themselves. Some of the stories are very dark, especially 'The Method' and 'The Last Supper'. Others are more light-hearted. I was especially drawn to 'The Games They Play' about the effect a new couple has on the dynamics of an established group of Swingers. And all writers will recognise the despair felt by the narrator of 'One Story', an author with a bad case of writers' block that is not being alleviated by the G&Ts.
Vowler's stories are beautifully written. His style is spare and stark, and sometimes the reader needs to go back and check what she has just read. The chilling tale 'The Little Man', which closes the collection, is told in such an understated manner that I had to read the ending twice to make sure I'd not missed anything.
If you enjoy well-written short stories, that are just a bit different, this is a collection you will love.
on 15 November 2010
Tom Vowler's first collection is powerful, original and well written, and deserving of the Salt prize. Revenge, in all its manifestations, features often. The firs story `the Method,' made me smile, even with the sinister ending. Also `the Games they play,'which, despite its strange and tacky theme, subtly dissects a marriage. `The Last Supper' brought a lump to my throat when the last line suddenly made sense of the bizarre story. `There are New Birthdays now' is harrowing, without being gratuitous, because the traumatic event is dealt with obliquely. In`The Little Man' the disabled childrens' protectiveness towards each other is poignant. In 'One story' I could identify with the writer who loses track of whether his stories, in this case cruel and destructive, are true - with appalling results. The last line was a killer.
This unique collection is so varied and gripping, I read it in one sitting. Highly recommended.
on 14 November 2010
The finely written stories in The Method catch us like night creatures in an intense beam of light. We may escape, but fur has been ruffled, curiosity spellbound. We are drawn back to this light for more tantalising games. Games? People certainly play behavioural ones with themselves and others. Vowler plays disquieting themes of foibles and felonies with insight, wit and an intelligent compassion. What may be most disturbing is the `ordinariness' of his narrators - could be our neighbours. Could be ourselves. It's not just the title story that's concerned with The Method (as in acting). With each tale in the book, the writer himself enters totally into the varied personalities and voices. More please, Tom Vowler.
on 31 January 2013
Beautifully written and very sensitive. Made me love short stories even more. I hope Tom Vowler will continue writing short fiction, he clearly has a talent for it. I keep this book under my bed and read only one story. Some of them I did't quite get at the end, but still I give 5 stars.
on 10 November 2010
A massive debut! Vowler delivers pint-sized vignettes of misery which bring to my mind early McEwan and that doyen of despair, Bernard Malamud. It feels as if he's spent serious time in a dystopian variety of Plato's cave with the dispossessed and the unconsoled. It's all here incest, murder, sodomy, rape, harrowing loss - few malevolences are unexplored; yet fully exposed,invariably hauntingly, but often with a perverse wit.I've heard that Cameron and Clegg take turns to read them to each other to make their brutality seem less savage.
Buy it, read it and re-think these human tragedies I suspect you'd previously neatly (and smugly)compartmentalised. Bring on the novel Vowler.
on 15 September 2011
really enjoyed every last page of this deviously dense tome, hooks you like your favourite box set. Lent it to a workmate , that's always rewarding...(maybe she'll buy his next one)recommend. Very finely honed.