‘Honeydew’ by Edith Pearlman **

Honeydew is American author Edith Pearlman’s newest collection of short stories.  The book is comprised of twenty tales in all, and ends with the title story.

As with the work of undisputed greats such as Alice Munro in the field, Pearlman presents slices of everyday life in Honeydew – a trip to the pedicurist for a muddled divorcee in ‘Tenderfoot’, a fairytale-esque hospital where all is not what it seems in ‘Castle 4’, and the purchasing of an antique statue in ‘Puck’.  She largely focuses upon family, friendships and first meetings, but from time to time, the darker elements of human nature seep in – from drug taking and dying, to drawing disfigured children in order to ‘ward off catastrophe’ within the artist’s own family.

Whilst some of the general ideas here are interesting, Pearlman’s third person perspective seems rather too detached at times.  Whilst she follows each of her characters well, she does not build any real sympathy for them on behalf of the reader.  The majority of her protagonists do not tend to feel like three-dimensional constructs in consequence, and very few of them are memorable creations.

Unlike the diversity which can be found within Pearlman’s 2011 collection Binocular Vision, which was nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction, the stories within Honeydew are, on the whole, rather similar in their tone and style.  There is not enough to set the tales apart from one another; they are largely geograpically vague, and undefined in terms of their time period.  Several of the stories are not at all engaging, and felt quite flat.

Particularly for someone who so enjoyed Binocular Vision, Honeydew is rather disappointing.  Pearlman’s writing is more matter-of-fact than anything, and there are very few passages which could be termed beautiful.  There is an uneven feel to Honeydew; there is no real sense of flow or coherence from one story to the next.  The tales here give the impression that they were penned by an entirely different author to the sharp and perceptive stories which can be found within Binocular Vision.

Purchase from The Book Depository


Flash Reviews (26th August 2013)

The Photographed Cat, edited by Arnold Arluke and Lauren Rolfe
Lauren Rolfe, one of the contributors to this volume, is ‘a collector of early-twentieth century animal photographs’,

My dear little cat

My dear little cat

something which I find utterly adorable. The whole idea of this book is lovely, in fact. The introduction is nicely written and set out, and I love the way in which it ties in the history of mankind and such things as the Suffrage movement, all the while making it entirely applicable to the world’s growing love of felines. I like the academic feel of the book, too. Some of the photographs were incredibly sweet, and my personal favourites involved cats being dressed up. (As you can see from the image I’ve used at the start of this review, my own cat adores being dressed up). Now for the negatives. In the Kindle version of this book, the footnotes are a little odd. It would have been far better, I feel, to have them all collected in one place at the end of book with hyperlinks leading from the corresponding text, rather than being plonked in any which way. I was reading a paragraph, and it was cut off right in the middle by a footnote, which became rather irksome when it happened repeatedly. The book felt disjointed at times in consequence. The format, in this sense, was not overly good for a Kindle book, and the photographs were tiny unless you patiently went through each one and enlarged them.

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
I read parts of Uncle Vanya and The Seagull during a theatre module which I took whilst at University, and for some reason, I didn’t finish either play. Here, the characters interact so well together, and some of their dialogue exchanges are truly stunning. There are some incredibly interesting ideas presented in this play, particularly with regard to social issues, and Chekhov presents the human condition marvellously. The scenes blended into one another seamlessly. Chekhov’s writing is lovely, and the vignette at the end is truly beautiful.

The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett
The Family from One End Street is very sweet, and it reminded me a little of the Milly-Molly-Mandy stories. I liked the way in which every one of the characters was so diverse, and how separate chapters placed their focus upon a different one of them in turn. All of their adventures were well plotted and beautifully written. I would have adored this as a child, I’m sure. A perfectly heartwarming little book, and a lovely choice for a summer read, whether you are a child or not.

Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman
I have been looking forward to reading Binocular Vision for several years, and I dearly hoped that I wouldn’t be disappointed when I began it over the weekend. I liked how diverse the stories were at first, but I must admit that those which featured the same characters didn’t appeal to me all that much. I liked the freshness and individuality of those tales where everything and everyone was new. The random order of the tales worked well, and throughout I believe that the most developed characters were the children.

As with the majority of short story collectiions, some of the vignettes in Binocular Vision were far stronger than others, and the themes and settings did occasionally blend into one another a little, which was a shame. Pearlman does a marvellous job of presenting many themes, however, ranging from identity, society and conformity – or the lack thereof – to religion, illness and the fine balance between and fragility of life and death.

My favourite stories were ‘Inbound’, ‘Tess’, ‘Home Schooling’, ‘Granski’, ‘Capers’, ‘On Junius Bridge’, ‘Lineage’, ‘Vallies’ and ‘Self-Reliance’.