I decided to leave the Dubliners‘ review for last, even though it was the first book I completed for the Reading Ireland Month. That is because I find it so very difficult to talk about this book; letting some days go by did not really help much, apparently.
The first time I read this book was about four years ago, in my very first semester at university. We had read and discussed only two stories out of this collection, though. I remember not being very impressed by them at the time, since I did not really get the point of them – what did Joyce intended to say when writing them? Upon re-reading those two stories (‘Araby’ and ‘The Dead’) and reading all the rest as well, I can emphatically say that I still have the same question.
It is true that the stories collected in Dubliners do not have any outstanding storyline. They are not the kind of stories that will keep you at the edge of your seat, wondering what might happen next. They are not the kind of stories that blow you away with their twists. They are much simpler and much more ordinary than that. Yet, they manage, somehow, to stick with you.
In fact, I found myself being unable to put the book down and stop reading. It is probably not because the stories somehow became more interesting, but mostly due to Joyce’s beautiful writing. I felt like wanting to devour every single word he wrote. He could write about anything and about nothing at all, and I would still want to read it. His writing was so powerful, and I hadn’t felt that in a very long time.
There were some common themes that connected most of the stories in this book, like religion for example. I also really enjoyed seeing some characters reappearing or simply mentioned in other stories than the ones they originally appeared in. I absolutely adore it when the short stories in a collection are connected in that way, and it is always so very enjoyable to see an author make references to his own work.
The Dublin he described, though, seemed to be a highly unpleasant and bleak place to live in. That was an interesting turn, since I remember reading somewhere that he wanted to write something about Dublin because not many authors paid as much attention to this city, and yet he did not come up with words of praise and exquisite beaity as one would expect. Instead, Joyce’s Dublin is a place of death, deceit, agony and frustration.
Of course, I liked the book overall, but I enjoyed some stories more than others. My favourites were probably ‘Eveline’, ‘A Little Cloud’ and ‘A Painful Case’. Since my impression of James Joyce got rather improved after reading this story collection, I feel like I could probably tackle Ulysses during the next year (I’m probably being too optimistic here).