3 out of 4 stars
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Soliloquy: Beyond Town Limits is a collection of short stories by Dene Hellman and Ann O’Dell. It is divided into six sections and includes tales about women of all ages with the aim of revealing episodes of their lives and their way of thinking.
Like any good anthology, Soliloquy offers both an overview of the authors’ style and lots of food for thought. I cannot dwell on each story separately, but they are all delightful gems. Their simple and consistent plots often focus on one topic at a time. This is the case of “Whatʼs in a Name,” where Frances, the narrator, reflects on the consequences of revealing poor Mabel’s middle name. Another example is “Mrs. Westfield,” one of my favorites. The protagonist of this story is sure to know what feelings her household helper has towards her. She will change her opinion only after a visit to the woman’s home.
Some plots are more complex, like “The Clawfoot Bathtub” and “Pidgeon Drop.” The most interesting for me is “Mother Cat,” where the protagonist has a unique relationship with her pet, named after her mother. The cat has a remarkable personality and is independent and smart. Moreover, Hellman describes her effectively, and it is easy for you to imagine her in her most memorable actions.
Considering that Soliloquy has two authors, its uniformity is striking. The stories are original and varied, but their structures have some common features. One of the most obvious is that it is at the end that their real meaning becomes clear. The events are self-explanatory, but the final paragraphs enlighten you on something you did not notice before. Moreover, both Hellman and O’Dell use a quiet tone, but it becomes ironic at times – when Mrs. Westfield makes her final considerations, for example.
Soliloquy invites you to admire the details and not just the general picture. The authors took their time to polish the narrative, and the characters’ actions and thoughts are unforgettable. The events do not need to be as sensational as in “Curtain Call,” where we witness Laura's debacle. Straightforward tales like “The Swan Bench” are meaningful and enjoyable, if you have the time to linger on every paragraph as if it were a line of poetry. Soliloquy is not a book you read when you are in a hurry, but when you can relax and appreciate its charming pages.
Soliloquy has only one negative aspect: the typographical errors. Missing commas, periods, and inverted commas do not disturb the reading but are evident. Another round of corrections is necessary to make the book flawless.
I rate this wonderful anthology 3 out of 4 stars only because of the errors; otherwise, it would have deserved 4 stars. I recommend it to every lover of short stories, mainly but not exclusively women. Hellman and O’Dell have given us an excellent piece of literature, and I will keep my copy among my favorite books. If you, too, like books where details are as precious as the message, then Soliloquy is the right read for you.
Soliloquy: Beyond Town Limits
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