Publisher: Penguin Random House LLC Genre: Fiction, Short Stories Pages: 274 Format: Hardcover Buy Local My Rating: 3/5 stars
Jojo Moyes, best known for her novel Me Before You and the film by the same name, waxes optimistic in Paris for One, a collection of nine short stories all told from the female perspective. Offering up relatable and recognizable female characters in the midst of change, Paris for One takes the reader on journeys of self-discovery, relationships gone wrong (and right), and the life-changing power of a pair of Louboutins.
Worn out from life in quarantine, and never ending political and civil strife, Paris for One is part female empowerment, part escapism, and could be just the distraction you have been looking for. I am a sucker for anything Parisian, and impulsively tossed this book into my online shopping cart without even bothering to read the reviews. My instincts ended up being right on, as this collection is a series of delightful, breezy reads that will help take the edge off a tough week of scrolling through social media and wondering where we all went wrong.
Moyes seems fully aware that sometimes all you need is a little mental escape. She fills her stories with relatable, “every woman” type characters—which excuses her a little for placing some of them in pretty predictable situations. An excellent example of this comes in the form of the titular story where Englishwoman Nell’s failed Parisian getaway turns surprisingly into just what the doctor ordered for her overly stable existence. It’s a familiar theme, but who hasn’t dreamed of throwing caution to the wind, boarding that flight, and facing adventure head on with a brooding Frenchman on a scooter?
Another playful entry is the sweet and funny “Christmas List,” where a day of shopping leads to something you just can’t buy—a change in attitude. Neither story pushes the envelope in the genre, but they made me smile, and just because they are familiar doesn’t make them any less fun!
Wisely though, Moyes does switch gears by adding a little drama and introspection into the collection with “Bird in the Hand” and “Love in the Afternoon.” Exploring the complexities of married life, these stories ground the collection from flying off into a Parisian cotton candy cloud filled sky. In both, Moyes reminds us that sometimes things do happen for a reason, and the grass may not be greener on the other side when it comes to life and love.
Moyes’s writing style is straightforward and uncomplicated, which makes this the perfect easy read for a lazy Sunday afternoon…or Monday through Saturday given the current state of the world! While these aren’t stories you will be pondering days later, it’s clear that they weren’t meant to be. So curl up in your favorite chair with Paris for One and indulge yourself with a few life-changing fantasies. My guess is you deserve just that!
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Genre: Fiction Pages: 201 Format: Hardcover Buy Local Rating: 4.5/5 stars
A House is a Body is a bold and provocative collection of short stories from emerging author Shruti Swamy. Her collection contains twelve short stories that are set in India and the United States. Each one is an intimate dive into the human experience. Her narratives redefine the genre of domestic fiction, focusing on the tension of relationships and the inevitable isolation of being human. Swamy doesn’t hold back any punches. She navigates the challenging circumstances of birth and death, love and loss, betrayal and redemption as if she’s been writing for a lifetime. Swamy’s ability to craft authentic domestic turmoil within such a small space on the page is both impressive and unsettling.
I was beyond excited to pick up my copy of A House is a Body. I discovered Swamy’s collection on a list of exciting books to anticipate in 2020 and was intrigued by the description of her writing as a marriage between the realistic and the fantastic. I couldn’t wait to experience what promised to be a literary uprooting of the domestic. Her stories did not disappoint—each narrative was more compelling than the last, pulling me through the entire collection in a matter of hours.
One of my favorite stories in the collection is titled “The Siege.” The story is told from the point of view of a young queen who is married to a selfish and violent king attempting to steal the wife of another man. The circumstances are dramatic and devastating, yet I still had so much fun reading a story that was placed in a setting with royalty and wars fought over romance. Swamy’s depiction of the setting was fantastic—within just twenty pages she was able to build a world with complex characters and conflict. This story is a can’t miss for anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre.
Another one of my favorites was titled “Wedding Season.” This story takes on a very different tone from the one in “The Siege.” The story is centered on two young women, Teja and Al, who travel from the United States to India for Teja’s counsin’s wedding. The young women are forced to hide the romantic nature of their relationship for fear of being ridiculed for their sexuality. Swamy’s narration manages to be beautiful despite the tragic circumstances. The stark contrast between the beauty of India and the tension of the lovers’ secret makes the story captivating. This is definitely a story for the modern world. I was impressed by how Swamy addressed the subjects of sexuality and identity with such boldness. Her story left me trying to decide if the ending should be considered happy or sad. What I am sure about is that it’s worth reading to decide for yourself.
It’s not often that I find a collection of short stories where I can say I enjoyed every story, but I can confidently say I enjoyed every story in A House is a Body! I would recommend this collection to readers who enjoy strong female characters and the uneasiness of the mundane. In other words, if you like “The Yellow Wallpaper” or “The Story of an Hour,” Swamy is the contemporary voice you’ve been waiting for. This collection is an impressive and promising start to a young author’s career, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Shruti Swamy.
Thank you to Changing Hands for providing an ARC in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.