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on 4 July 2013
I loved this collection of well crafted stories. I very much enjoyed the journey over the years, and the insight into ways of life almost lost and not often recorded.

The stories themselves deal with universal human emotions and do so exceptionally well.
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on 23 August 2013
Very evocative of the era, makes you realize how far we have changed as a nation. A lot is spoken of political correctness now being over the top, but I don't think anyone would really want to return to that post-war time era of misogyny and bigotry.
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There is an inherent challenge in collections of short stories, particularly if these really ARE, well, short, as opposed to novella length. And that challenge is intensified if someone garners a collection of several collections, as they have here. Unless a writer is extraordinarily skilled, and moreover, possesses insight into different types of individuals, narrative drive and structure, literary style or styles, what the reader will very quickly find is a creeping, then racing, sense of deja vu

And so, sadly it proved to be here. Stan Barstow, north country set realist writer rather burst on the scene with his gritty A Kind of Loving, published in 1960 and made into a successful film, all on the back of a new realist approach to drama, full of angry young men and kitchen sinks. At the time, this was a refreshing, dark wresting of creativity from the world of upper and upper middle class drawing room drama, detailing the lives of the rulers and the intelligentsia.

New acting, new actors were called for. A Kind of Loving was part of that 60's working class culture, a culture of energy, dynamism, portrayed by writers and actors who had come from the background being portrayed A kind of Loving WAS new, different, unpredictable if you had not come across writing like this about people like this, before.

Unfortunately, though Barstow crafts stories, narratives and ideas well, his palette is extremely narrow, and within 4 or 5 stories the unsubtle techniques of his writing become predictable and repetitious - unforgiving fathers, tearaway sons leaving home to seek their fortune, those same tearaways returning to find forgiving or unforgiving women - sisters, lovers, mothers. Clumsy men trying to be tender, women with hearts of noble forgiveness or made steely by the harshness of their lives. Mean streets and warm working class communities. Social mobility and education never quite managing the heart of the mean streets. The unwinking lure of home represented by the mean streets, fells and slagheaps. Part of the problem is that these have dated badly, and seem incredibly old fashioned.What would have been shocking at the time is rendered 'oh, so what' BECAUSE of the volume of stories and small range of their reach

The problem for me is that within the first page or so of each story, once past the very first handful, Barstow's rather formulaic protagonists, the reversals and ends of the stories, and indeed virtually the whole of the trajectory, was crushingly obvious. I felt as if i was overwhelmed by a surfeit of lampreys .

A very short collection of stories , perhaps one or at the most two from each decade, would have been interesting, but dozens and dozens made the whole experience, compared to the well crafted novel which launched it all for him, rather like having a Rolex, and then being offered several hundred fake Rolexes churned out on a factory production line and sold as originals. It's the difference between hand crafted and mechanised.

Sadly Barstow's publishers/estate have done him no favours by releasing this. I've given it a slightly higher rating than i want to, in many ways, to acknowledge the craft of each individual story, but this is really something to pick up, in a spare 15 minutes, to read a single story every few weeks or months. It does not bear a longer reading session
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on 14 June 2013
Some very good stories in the best tradition of short story writing. However some seem to be pointless. I found that I was looking forward to read the next story and was keen to see what comes next.
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on 14 June 2013
An excellent read introducing some fascinating characters. Each chapter leaves one wanting to know more - always a good thing in a short story, in my view.
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on 15 July 2013
The period factor was interesting but the content was more interesting when Barstow was writing and there was an innovative quality to this kind of social realism. I bought the text as a nostalgic gesture.
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on 16 June 2013
I bought this as a Kindle "Daily Deal" for 99p and have been hooked. The earlier stories in particular (1950s and 1960s) brought back so many forgotten details of growing up in a (hard) working class family. It is so completely different from my usual reading matter (criminal, conspiracy etc) that I planned to use it as back-up if I ran out of things to read; instead it's all I can do to limit myself to one story at a time, I could have gone through it all in one sitting.
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on 7 June 2013
I enjoyed all the stories in this collection. I've had a Stan Barstow week with this and A Kind Of Loving. A true genius and a cracking story-teller.
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on 28 June 2013
I know Stan Barstow's oeuvre is kitchen sink realism but I found this book dreary and tedious. I didn't warm to any of the characters in the stories and although most of the stories seemed unfinished I didn't really care what happened. Some people may like this but not me.
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on 1 July 2013
started on this, by the late Stan Barstow, who was from my own home town, but found them somewhat dated, a bit samey and eventually a bit boring. Will stick with the stories to see if they improve.
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