October 15, 2010

This Cake is for the Party - Sarah Selecky

This was my first read from this year's Giller shortlist; and I always find it difficult to write reviews of short story collections. Each story is unique, and it is difficult to see the book as a whole.

There are 10 stories in this collection, and I found that I read my way through them fairly quickly. Almost all of them were in the 20-30 page range, which I find to be the perfect length for short stories - long enough to be able to get into the story, but not so long that I get bogged down with too many characters and plot lines.

My one criticism is that most of the stories are told in the first person, and I found it hard to distinguish between the narrative voices in many of the stories. The typical voice is female, 20-30 years old, repressed and unable to speak her thoughts freely, and somewhat whiney. However it is the stories that break this bold that stand out in my mind, now that it is almost a week since I finished this book. The story featuring a middle-aged male looking back on his life with his slightly-crazy wife; the story about a teenage girl about to be orphaned; the young couple torn by the ethical decision of whether or not to report a friend's daughter to the Children's Aid Society.

My least favourite story? Go-Manchura. I just wanted to slap the main character and tell her to pull herself together and get some confidence in herself.

My favourite story? Where Are You Coming From, Sweetheart? From the first sentence, I was drawn into the story of Christine, and how inevitable the ending would be. And by the time the ending came around, I was in tears.

This is the first collection of stories from Sarah Selecky. I don't think that it is perfect, but I do think that if she keeps writing, her stories will get better and better, and I look forward to reading more of them.

This counts as a selection towards the Canadian Book Challenge at The Book Mine Set.

So... My personal Giller reading challenge (in order of preference) stands at:

1. This Cake is for the Party
2. ?
3. ?
4. ?
5. ?


John Mutford said...

The whiney 20-30 female is a staple in Canadian literature after all! Glad to know at least 3 stories bucked the trend.

I think, as you pointed out on my blog, the other 7 stories might work better if isolated from the rest.

Kate said...

And here I was thinking that it was the whiney bitter older woman that was the staple of Canadian literature! But the whiney-ness in this collection as a whole was beyond my tolerance level..

The 3 stories that bucked the trend showed that she can write stories with a different voice - I'll be curious to see if there is more variety in any follow-up collections or individual stories.