*Just a little disclaimer, I was in a very chatty mood when I wrote this… hence why it reads much more like a direct download from my thought process!! Apologies if you think “gosh when is she going to get to the point?”, if you do feel like that/even before you start know you will roll your eyes, go right ahead and scroll to the conclusion*
Even when I first opened this book, I was worried about how I would review it. How do you review a book that is packed full of different stories with different characters?! I knew that I was likely to forget something by the end and so I started writing down snippets for each short story…
Story 1 – Three Exhausting Weeks – Two best friends jump into a relationship and discover that although their personalities compliment each other in a friendship group, it can be disastrous for a couple. It was a short, punchy story that gets to the point quickly and leaves the reader with the following message – it’s good to try new things but don’t let people change who you are and how you live your life, unless you want to!
There are seventeen stories in this book, I quickly discovered that capturing my thoughts on each story would create a lengthy review and thought better of it…so instead I will summarise with the following:
- Each story is most definitely unique – you can feel the creative energy that Hanks must have had in his mind when he wrote this collection of stories (particularly with Alan Bean Plus Four)
- The amount of short stories within this book allowed Hank to cover a vast amount of subject topics in 400 pages – something I don’t think you’d be able to achieve from a novel of a similar length, as it would create a complex plot that would come across chaotic and unbelievable
- Hanks’ personality can be felt on every page of this book – his wit, his empathy, his kindness, it’s all in there
What I think you lose from short stories is the ability to connect with each character and understand their personality. Although Hanks does use some of his characters across a number of stories, I just felt that the usual kinship developed in a novel was lacking, as the one-on-one bonding time with a character is reduced. That’s just my personal opinion though.
I’m not against short stories as a whole though, back before Christmas I read Christmas With You by Sheila O’Flanagan which is packed full of short tales based within a hotel, I think the reason why I preferred this was for two reasons:
- One, many of the characters were from previous O’Flanagan tales, so I already knew a lot about them, I knew their history, what they liked, etc.
- Secondly, O’Flanagan weaved together the short stories in a different way to Hanks. Hanks used a physical object – the typewriter as his linking tool, whereas O’Flanagan used not only a physical object (the hotel) but she also used the other characters in the background of each story, which meant each character developed in your mind, even if they weren’t centre stage. I mentioned previously that Hanks does use some of his characters in more than one tale, but interestingly he never mixes characters from different tales.
*And those of you just after the conclusion…*
The last few paragraphs seem to give off the vibe that I didn’t enjoy the book, which is true and not true. I was truly blown away with Hanks ability to tell such infinitely, imaginative stories and, loved his smart and witty writing style. I felt there were a lot of powerful messages weaved into this book and they were executed in a way that I wasn’t able to judge the character that was ‘in the wrong’, as I was able to see these traits in me, the people around me, and … all of us. One to reflect on can be found in ‘A Month on Greene Street’ – if you’ve read it, drop me a comment below on your thoughts of how Bette first treated Paul.
All in all, I’m glad I read it and am keen to see if Hanks will dip into the publishing world again… hopefully a full novel next time!
Until next time, Chloé x