I do these Quick Takes for books for which I won’t be doing a full review but might still have something to say – this is the 2nd 2022 Quick Takes page. Search Blogger on Books Quick Takes or go to the main page of the respective year for previous Quick Takes.
Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy – The Irish author is not one to steer away from tough issues and bad people, but there is a salt of earth-ness good-hearted-ness among the people she centers and a core of love for Ireland as community that makes it feel cosy. And that’s here too. But there is heart disease and death, abuse of affection, prejudice, and other unpleasantness. Her books make you feel like you’ve set foot in Ireland and (and, in the case of this book, Poland and Greece, and their sub-communities in Ireland) met these people, even the usually undefined characters at the back of a painting. Something that should be mentioned is while she clearly loves Ireland and its traditions, she isn’t afraid to call out xenophobia and classism among her people where she sees it and that is never more clear than in Heart and Soul.
The 2021 Perito Prize Anthology – This is, since the first one in 2019, an annual anthology out of the UK, featuring writers from all over the world – and as I am one of those writers, I won’t be reviewing it as such but I’ll share a bit about it and my reactions to it. The collection features the top stories from a prize calling for entries on inclusion and accessibility, inclusive environments, diversity and inclusive design. I didn’t think my story “Willow”, about a woman who grew tired of life, sat down, and became a tree, 7th place in the competition, was a natural fit (though I did tell myself when submitting that it worked as example of the damage caused by exclusion), but on reading the collection I better understand how panoramically the theme was interpreted and am mostly happy to be included (and still have this story earmarked for my own collection in progress). I do wish the stories, including my own, had undergone even a little proofing (they were published as is with authors given the opportunity to do some clean-up); I found some errors. Still, overall a pretty solid (and eye-opening) read. Taking the stories in order, I liked the winning story by retired English teacher from Scotland Mary Darroch, “Magic Bus”; liked, if a bit less, “Smelly Cat” by Scottish phd candidate Chiarra Bullen; and started and stopped “Exit the Shaitan” by Ali Azar, UK based but of Iran – these were the top three. Continuing, “Unaccustomed as I am” by retired UK academic was sad and that was good; “Words of the Mind” by Mei-Yee Man Oram, also of the UK, was intriguing and poignant; but I started then skipped “A Fear of a Social Life” by Isabelle Mason and “Pastlanders” by D. W. Dutton, both of the UK. “When they come” by Sarah Letchmere, an aspiring UK teacher, felt a bit long and was interesting but not compelling. “Parting World” by Afro-British writer living in Germany, Maroula Blades, was another essay, which like the other non-fiction pieces was scanned but not read. I, also, started but didn’t finish “The Marshmallow Challenge” by American Giancarlo Makashi. “The Unplace” by UK journalist Elizabeth Train-Brown was haunting though I’m not quite sure I fully grasped it. “Highest Common Denominator” by American LC Diabelli was where the anthology started to pick up for me, though it was narratively exhausting and tonally depressing (way to get my hopes up, story!); it was also an interesting commentary on the culture of work in a modern society (through the prism of a post-modern dystopian society). “Ikite” by UK writer Nicole Mbaeri was memorable, if dark, with an if you can’t change your circumstances, change your attitude ending. Welsh writer Kirsty L. Ghostly, a mom and aspiring writer, did a good job of placing me in the character’s pov and transferring his sense of anxiety in “The Growing Darkness”. I had to read “Six Days of Eternity” twice – at first the pacing felt really slow but then I got to the end and was a bit confused at the character shift and read again realizing there was more to it than I originally realized. The author, John Drake, is from Ireland.
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