I loved this collection of stories, though it can be tough to read. It contains troubled upbringings, difficult parent-child relationships, infidelity, loss, estrangement, betrayal, racism, strong language. The overall bent is sombre and thoughtful. But it also contains uplifting stories, and uplifting conclusions to troubling stories. And even the saddest stories are worth reading and pondering.
One of the amazing things about this collection is how varied the stories are. Not just in content, but also in form. The author has taken the opportunity to explore a variety of different literary forms, which makes it particularly interesting to read. Some of these are: * A series of figures. * An exam. * A story told in a pastiche of different styles. * A story following writing advice from different authors. * A story with sub-text in footnotes. * A story hinging on changes of typography.
While most of these stories aren't as good as the "real", conventional short stories in the collection, they are fascinating and enjoyable because they make a good exploration of an interesting form.
It's difficult to summarise the rest of the stories, but here are a few threads common to many of the stories that I appreciated: 1. The power of words, of stories, and of language, in helping the characters (and us) to understand the world, and in forming a lense through which we can see the world. Whether that is through stories. Or comics. Or a dictionary. Or whether it's learning another language, typically English.
2. Overcoming prejudice, typically racial prejudice.
3. Many of the stories are set in Australia or involve Australia: there is an "Australian-ness" to the collection.
4. As a generalisation, the stories feel like they are advancing to a definite point. But it is rarely clear what that point is till you get there, and the conclusions are satisfying.