4 out of 4 stars
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In this superb collection comprised of 33 short stories, 2 graphic novel adaptations and final novella, Coles explores the human condition. Circumstances together with personal experiences in time and place, have formed his cast of players and their relationships, as they find themselves in an an array of confronting or challenging situations. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars without hesitation.
Often there is an underlying moral to the tale and a hard lesson to be learned. Regret,surprise revelations, expected and unexpected outcomes, love, death, achievement, disappointment, humour, kindness, triumph over adversity, loyalty, betrayal, strength, vulnerability and journeys of self discovery are all to be found in this collection.
Coles leads readers to examine their ideas, assumptions of acceptable societal “norms” , preconceptions and expectations as they progress through to the final novella.
The 2 graphic novels while an interesting inclusion, highlight Cole’s masterful use of language throughout. The contrast to the preceding short stories created the impression that the graphic content may have added to the tale, but could not prevent an overall sense that more had been lost than gained.
As an illustrated work, a number of talented artists introduce each piece and capture the essence of every tale precisely and all contribute, in their own style, to create a unique and truly remarkable literary accomplishment.
The Gift,the introductory short story was one of my favourite pieces. A young unmarried girl finds herself in a difficult situation with her mother’s outspoken and predictable attitudes. Giving birth to a handicapped daughter, Catherine is determined to be the mother she wants to be for her child and refuses to let her be further restrained by the thoughts or deeds of others. Coles has presented The Gift to his readers as the opening story. It is a gentle introduction into what lies in store. A Gift it is- for the reader, and one I gratefully accepted.
The Necklace, Nemesis and Homunculus explore or compare relationships, unrequited love, love and marriage, loyalty, friendship values, errors of judgement and misplaced trust.
In The Bear we see two hunters and a boy confronted by a bear. The character of the hunters and the nature of the bear and deliverance of justice is as swift as the story is short.
Several of the stories feature distinctly disadvantaged people , some are handicapped mentally or physically.
Death is a frequent topic and The Dilemma is another very short story where a father who is also a surgeon has but a moment to choose to save a life or end it.
The final Novella, Sister Carrie, examines cultural differences and attitudes and preconceived ideas of an elder guardian sister, Jessie, who takes her responsibilities reluctantly but seriously. Both are determined to live their lives their way, creating a relationship that ebbs and flows. As they struggle with their new circumstances, both are pulled in different directions as Carrie begins a relationship and Jessie feels time passing her by and plans for her future.
Not a book for readers who would like to see many happy endings or light easy reading. Highly recommended those who are prepared to feel a range of emotions and are prepared to be taken outside of their comfort zone and expect the unexpected.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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