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Master of the short story
on 25 April 2014
This book has the subtitle ‘stories of five decades’ combining, as it does three previous collections, first published in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, with a couple of more recent stories.
The Desperadoes collection (published 1961) has stories from the late 50’s and early 60’s with post-war austerity and emerging youth culture ,set in the industrial north, providing the context for his tales of everyday working-class men and women.
A Season With Eros (published 1971) and The Glad Eye (published 1986) show how times have changed for these folk with many materially better off and enjoying the freedoms (moral and material) on offer – nice houses, foreign holidays, semi-detached relationships – but against a contrasting background of 3 million unemployed.
For me Barstow is a master of the short story. Usually a punchy opening line hooks the reader in and then the tale unfolds in uncomplicated prose, exploring whatever facet of human nature he has chosen to expose. The dialogue is convincing (any dialect remains readable) and the denouements are satisfying.
The location, characters and situations are reminiscent of Barstow’s classic A Kind of Loving trilogy (one of my favourite reads that similarly had volumes published over an extended period and so reflected social change, as well as Vic Brown’s personal development) and there can be no finer recommendation from me.
A word of caution to the Kindle edition; the page numbering is hard to credit as the 251 pages cannot possibly contain the 41 stories that originally made up three separate books. I timed my reading of the last “12” pages at 40 minutes, so either the printed version is in a miniscule font or the real length is more like 500 pages – which makes the purchase (it was a 99p deal of the day) even better value.
[See my weekly reviews each Friday on abibliodyssey.blogspot.com]