3 out of 4 stars
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“Just enough to whet the appetite,” is exactly what you will find in Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles, 2000-2016. In this anthology of over 30 short tales, two illustrated novels and a novelette by William H. Coles, readers are not going to find stories with fairy tale endings, over-the-rainbow type folk tales, or narratives that spark laughter impetuously. What readers will find are stories that makes you reflect on various facets of the world, tales that will not leave a warm feeling inside after reading, or happy ever after endings. However, William H. Coles has created interesting tales that penetrates the depth of your soul, question humanity and allows readers to form their own opinion.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles, 2000-2016, deals with stories regarding moral issues of a controversial nature or morbid topic line. The author introduces various characters that encompass a wide range of lifestyles. The opening story, “The Gift,” is about a teenager, Catherine, who gets pregnant and is forced to live in a convent until the baby is born and then placed up for adoption. When the baby is born with a deformity, Catherine teaches us the true meaning of unconditional love by keeping the baby in spite of the child’s disabilities. In “Dilemma,” the author illustrates how the afflictions related to other people can trigger decisions that could alter their lives forever. A surgeon is faced with the difficult situation of deciding life or death of his son, who is currently brain-dead from an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Coles narrates stories that capture the mind set, emotions, thrills, and sorrows of people with varying backgrounds and way of life. For instance, in “Dr. Greiner’s Day in Court,” the author skillfully depict the words of a young girl who has both animosity and devotion, at the same time, for her brother and the devastating understand of the guilt felt by the father. These are just a sampling of the stories inside this compilation. A diverse set of stories each with interesting story line, unique characters that are relatable and many of the tales having a message, is what awaits the reader in this book.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles is filled with an assembly of short stories with a varying assortment of subject matter-stories involving moral issues and family situations that wrenches your heart, infatuations and romances that puts either a smile or scowl on your face and tales that undertake a darker aspect of life and society. Most of the stories are skillfully created that leaves the reader wanting more and have characters that are masterfully illustrated which makes them easy to relate to. “The Necklace,” is a lesson in being happy with what you have instead of miserable about things you don’t. The discovery of love between couples is realized while on a trip to Italy in search of answers about their future together. It is only after the tragedy of another couple they encounter that allows them to discover their true feelings for each other.
I enjoyed the diversity of settings in the stories. Stories set from decades well past and times of centuries forgotten are explored along with tales in modern day time. Coles is an artist at realistic descriptions of the era in his stories. For example, in the “Lost Papers,” the ability of the author to paint a picture of the era, I was able to make a connection to feelings of fear and uneasiness that were prevalent during that time. I also liked the fact that many of the stories had a message that included moral dilemmas, humanity, family issues that leave a nasty taste in your mouth, hurt, trust, life, dying and acceptance. Although, there is a similar theme to many of the stories which involve human conflict and ethical issues, they read as stand-alone stories.
There is no denying the fact that Coles is a master of creating realistic characters that readers are able to make a connection with. However, I found that many of the stories carry a dark or morbid theme to them, have depressing endings and there are even a few that are absolutely horrendous. I also found that many of the stories included down-right evil women, primarily mothers. The majority of the stories are narrated in a unique style however; I was disappointed with the lack of evolution in the story lines of some of the tales. For example, in “Speaking of the Dead,” the tone and pace of the narrative is sluggish and the character development comes across as dull and lifeless which makes the ending ineffective.
In conclusion, for the most part, many of the stories are narrated quite well. Although I did find a few grammar problems in the book, they were not significant enough to decrease the rating of 3 out of 4 that I gave this book. I would have given this book a higher rating if the author had organized the illustrations that appear at the beginning of each short story, a little more carefully. Various artists were used, each with their own unique style, made the flow of illustrations erratic and unorganized. All in all, for people who simply love to read, Illustrated Short Fiction of William Coles, 2000 – 2016 is certainly a book for them.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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