The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Inventing the Abbots and other stories by Sue Miller

This was a book of short stories that my mum brought back from Canada for me last year. I was unfamiliar with the author and it was only a short book.
All of the stories are set in modern America, and each one is like a microcosm of domestic drama. Some span a long time in retrospect, but each story felt like a peep through a keyhole at the characters and their lives.
There are 11 stories in all, many of which are astutely observed relationship accounts, including the psychology of sexual encounters, but not all of them. We have the brothers, one of which ends up having a relationship with each of the 3 sisters from the richest and most eligible family in town. We have a gentle matriarch whose personality is altered by a stroke. There are 2 young girls on the brink of discovering their own sexuality, who encounter a pervert in a secluded spot near their town. A mother who is watching her sons marriage disintigrate, and a father who takes his children for Christmas to spend with his new wife and her children. All of the stories are recognisable and relevant to the present day.
There are no massive plot twists, cliff hangers, mysteries, or surprises and those readers who like their short stories to be more wildly inventive or unpredictable may find this collection a little dull. If, like me, you enjoy subtle observations of people in recognisable situations, you will like this collection. None of the stories go on for too long either. There is nothing excessively exciting here, but the writing is still good and each one captured my interest.
If I had to make a criticism it would be that some of the stories kind of tail off, rather than conclude or even finish in a definitive way. Some endings left me a little bit adrift, but others worked more successfully.
What I did like immensely was the feel of the book in my hands. The paper almost felt handmade, and the type was a little larger than most mass produced paperbacks, which gave the book a touch of luxury.
Recommended for readers who like gentle, but thorough observations of people who may live on their street.
You can read about Sue Miller here.


antipodeanowl said...

I've always wondered what Miller's short stories would be like, given here predeliction for psychological dissection over plot. Your review has reminded me to check it out!

incurablelogophilia said...

I had no idea Sue Miller wrote short stories. I've read one of her novels (The Good Mother) and have another on the shelf for the future. I like her writing style, so I'd be interested in her stories.

Gentle Reader said...

I like Sue Miller's novels, and I've seen the movie version of Inventing The Abbots (disappointing, but with some interesting bits). I might like the stories...I'll check them out. Thanks!

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