Book review: Ron MacLean — Why the Long Face?

I received a review copy of this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme. As with many of the books I’ve requested on LTER, it’s a book that I might not have picked up and bought in a bookshop, but which looked intriguing enough on the LTER information for me to want to try it. As such, it’s outside my usual reading range, which does have some bearing on my review.

The book is a collection of contemporary short stories by Ron MacLean. It was described in the publishers blurb as “MacLean’s characters ā€“ from a girl who walks on telephone wires to a memory-addled truck driver ā€” all offer revelatory evidence of the strange workings of the human mind.” I’ve found that it doesn’t quite match the impression I picked up from the blurb, being much more experimental litfic than I’d really expected. This isn’t a problem as such, but I found some of the “quirky” stories to be a lot less experimental and cutting edge than the publisher suggests, at least from my perspective as a long-time reader of speculative fiction and high end fanfic.

The stories are very much character-driven, a step into the lives of people who range from the ordinary to the bizarre. The characters and their concerns are deftly portrayed in beautiful prose, but I’ve found that a common feature of the stories is that they feel as if they’re the first chapter of a longer story — there’s no real end or closure to any of the ones I’ve read so far. It works when the stories are taken one at a time, but I find it irritating when reading two or three in a single session, which is a large part of why I still haven’t finished the book. I fully intend to read every story, and expect that I’ll want to re-read some of them, but I enjoy it better taken a story every so often rather than reading the book through.

In the end, a worthwhile use of my time, but rather hard to review in any coherent fashion.

LibraryThing entry
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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