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Monthly Archives: February 2013

The War Tour is a short story collection written by Zoe Lambert and, as the name suggests, is written around the theme of war.

If I had to define my connection with short story collections in general, it would probably be a love/hate relationship. Whilst I do enjoy reading short stories, there is a common problem I have noticed within short story collections as a whole. Despite (or perhaps even because of) the variety of the plots in the collection, I tend to love some stories within the collection but utterly despise and lose interest in others, which ultimately means that my opinion of many short story collections is mixed at best.

By some miracle, The War Tour does not suffer from this main flaw of short story collections at all. Each story is carefully crafted by Lambert and creates a strong emotional connection between the reader and the characters within each story. Whilst I definitely enjoyed some of the stories within the collection more than others (I loved “33 Bullets” and “Lebensborn” actually almost had me in tears, which is an exceptional feat for a novel to achieve), I never regretted reading any of the other short stories or dreaded reading the rest of a story after a few sentences. The War Tour also has a large amount of variety in each story, by showing multiple perspectives of people affected by war. Whether we are reading a third person account of a soldier coming home on leave or a second person narration of  a man on a bus hearing the account of a stranger’s life, Lambert manages to make each story interesting and involving stylistically and plot wise. No two stories are the same but each has a heart and soul of its own.

There is really nothing more to say about The War Tour other than confirming that it is a spectacular collection of short stories and I strongly recommend that you seek them out to read. You will not regret reading this collection of war tales.

If you wish to purchase this great collection of short stories, follow this link:

Warning: Possible Spoilers

Visitation is a novel by the German Writer Jenny Erpenbeck which documents the history of a house in Germany and its various residents throughout the twentieth century.

When I first heard the concept of Visitation, I was quite eager to give it a read. The idea was original but also lent itself to multiple story opportunities. Sadly, Visitation ultimately proved disappointing in this regard. What mainly dragged the book down for me was Erpenbeck’s overly descriptive writing style with the occasional long sentence, which often left me either confused or bored out of my skull. What I had originally suspected would be an enjoyable read ended up becoming a boring chore.

Admittedly, despite my initial problems with Visitation, the writing style did eventually grow on me and simplified quite a bit as the stories progressed. The overall style of Visitation was quite interesting too. Though the novel originally seems to be a series of separate short stories, each story manages to bleed into another, creating a developed and more connected sense of the story world, such as when the Architect’s wife describes being found by a Russian Soldier, only for a later narration to explain the event from the perspective of the soldier. The Gardener, one of the only constants in almost every story apart from the house, adds to this theme and his slow weakening throughout the book as he grows older perfectly encapsulates the main theme of Visitation: the theme of inevitability of life and the concept of ownership.

By far, however, my favourite story within the book was ‘The Girl’, which follows a young Jewish girl called Doris who is attempting to hide from the Nazi’s within the house. Without giving the whole plot of the segment away, I shall simply say that the chapter is filled with a lot of emotion and the ending was poetically perfect in my opinion.

Overall, Visitation is an okay read but some people may struggle getting into the story, due to the initial long-winded writing form. Sadly, Visitation also falls into the trap that many other short story collections I’ve read have, where some stories are incredibly enjoyable where as others seem dull and tedious. If you don’t feel deterred by the extra effort needed to get into Visitation and want to see a fairly unconventional presentation of short stories in novel form, then you might want to take a look.

If you wish to purchase Visitation, click this link:

Henri Simon Leprince is a short story from Roberto Bolano’s collection, Last Evenings on Earth. The story itself revolves around the life of a man named Henri Simon Leprince ‘before, during and shortly after the Second World War’ and follows his exploits as a failing writer in those times.

The first thing of note about Henri Simon Leprince and of Bolano’s collection as a whole is his unique and unusual writing style. Instead of writing in the form of a proper story, Bolano’s writing appears in a less descriptive style of writing that one might expect more from a notebook or a diary. Because of this more fluid style, the barrier of formality between reader and writer seems to almost disappear. Whilst reading Last Evenings on Earth, I felt as I was being told a story by a close friend and surprisingly enjoyed Bolano’s divergence away from the traditional writing style.

The theme of insignificance and the misunderstood is a main focus of Bolano’s work, featuring heavily within the stories of Last days on earth. In particular, Henri Simon Leprince describes a failing writer, the titular character, who aids the French Resistance in smuggling aspiring writers away from the country and the Nazi presence. Despite his kind deeds, however, the people Leprince rescue show nothing but disinterest for his work as a poet. In this way, Henri Simon Leprince is a tragic tale of an unappreciated hero, though it is unclear whether a writer known as Henri Simon Leprince ever existed. It seems to be one of the only few stories within Bolano’s collection that is not entirely autobiographical. Where as most of the stories within Last Evenings on Earth either features Bolano narrating in the first person, or referring to a character of B, implied to be himself, Henri Simon Leprince is narrated from a third person perspective and occurs during a time frame before Bolano’s birth, making it a stand out story to the usual format. Whether the experiences of the story are Bolano’s or not is ultimately irrelevant as the events within each story all work well to build a better scope of the characters within the stories and the places they inhabit.

Overall, Henri Simon Leprince was a fairly enjoyable story and the collection of Last Evenings on Earth is definitely a worthwhile read, if only to try and taste some variety of other forms of writing and storytelling. I can quite clearly say that I like Last Evenings on Earth as a whole. Some of the stories got a little repetitive.

Last Evenings on Earth can be purchased here: