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.
This is an inspired and innovative collection of short stories, as part of what is a great product. The characters dwell at varying distances somewhere between our world and their own, but are always kept in check under the trusted guidance of our narrator. Certain throwaway actions are meticulously relayed, such as beer consumption ("Trystan unpacked thirty-six 250ml cans of Little Hobo Czech craft lager" / "David opened his can and drank maybe a third of it. He drank another third."), which as a newcomer to Roberts' work makes you wonder if the characters all have autistic tendencies (aut lit?). However, it quickly becomes apparent that this is part and parcel of a unique minimalist style. Once you trust the voice, the ride is a good one. Have fun with it.
generally I stick to american authors for my short story fiction but this is one massively unique and sincere voice and absolute art in every story. Also, i have the tendency to get frustrated when writers are described as funny but are dinner party funny/mildly amusing but this is at times genuinely funny and genuinely tragic in the same line so deserves massive recognition for this alone. My favourite British author at the moment.
I've not long finished All The Places We Lived and I thought it was fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the story Hi, Concept, which reminded me in a thematic sense of both the work of Chuck Palahniuk and Brett Easton Ellis. Also in a way it felt like a modern version of Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road. Well worth a read
Ever been in love? Ever been out of love? Ever been alone? Ever wanted to be alone? The characters and the situations in this collection of stories will make you smile. They'll make you cry. They'll make you feel hopeful.