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Customer Review

24 May 2015
All The Places We Lived is the debut collection of short stories from Richard Owain Roberts, a new writer with an incredibly distinctive voice and a unique eye for the world.

The stories here are short and sweet, all with warm, well drawn characters, from a couple trying to find their way in the world in the All The Places We Lived triptych of stories, to a man trying to recover from a relationship in Barcelona, to a sentient house who wants the best for its inhabitants, to the minds of James Franco and Kanye West.

The stories are minimalist with a refreshing lightness to them that carries you along quickly, making the reading experience a very pleasant one. Which is something he has pulled off well because there are serious themes at work beneath. The idea of the distancing properties of the internet recurs often; we see people constantly checking iPhones and Facebooks and these characters are often set apart from the real world in the same way we set ourselves apart from the real world using the gauze of a computer screen. And there is also the idea of people branding themselves online, creating personas through Facebook, projecting an idealised version of themselves. We’re all guilty of this. The theme of privilege amongst the middle class is another preoccupation, highlighting the problem in society of people getting into life positions they don’t deserve purely because they were born well. All of the above are seamlessly interwoven into the narratives.

There are very tender moments in the book, especially between people in relationships. The way they have their coded languages and in-jokes gives a glimpse of the history that exists between the characters that affords the stories more depth, makes the reader care more. For me, these moments are the strongest part.

There is plenty of lovely writing here. Imagery is clean and precise from apples to clean counters and reception areas and glasses of various smoothies. The aesthetic of the book is strong and consistent throughout. There are also lots of cats.

This is a really good book. I sometimes feel confused why short stories are so neglected by most of mainstream society. When they are written as they are in books like All The Places We Lived it makes me want to take an advert out in the newspaper telling people to read them. They can be so entertaining. I really don’t understand why we don’t embrace the form more. This collection has so much to offer I really hope people will pick it up.
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4.9 out of 5 stars
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