Cover image for The collected stories
The collected stories
Boylan, Clare.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Short stories
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Counterpoint, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 396 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Great Britain, Abacus, 2000.
Housekeeper's cut -- The wronged wife -- Bad-natured dog -- Appearances -- Some retired ladies on a tour -- Edna, back from America -- My son the hero -- A funny thing happened -- You don't know you're alive -- The picture house -- Affairs in order -- A particular calling -- Technical difficulties and the plague -- The little madonna -- L'amour -- Ears -- The stolen child -- It's her -- Life on Mars -- The secret diary of Mrs Rochester -- That bad woman -- Poor old sod -- Villa marta -- The miracle of life -- The spirit of the tree -- A little girl, never out before -- To tempt a woman -- Thatcher's Britain -- Horrible lack -- Confession -- Concerning virgins -- Gods and slaves -- Perfect love -- A reproduction -- A nail on the head -- Mama -- The complete angler -- A model daughter
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The Irish writer Clare Boylan has been publishing compelling and captivating work for over twenty years. Though she is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, she remains one of the most original and exciting short-story writers of our time. Like Alistair MacLeod, Alice Munro, and her compatriot William Trevor, her stories are universal. Hers is an imagination that is able, magically and marvelously, to transform everyday experience into something quite unexpected.

As perceptive as Colette, as darkly witty as Dorothy Parker, she waves a flag for the dispossessed and the marginalized and gleefully pulls love from behind its romantic facade. She makes the reader laugh out loud while at the same time compelling an uncomfortable self-examination. Plumbing the inner workings of marriage, aging, family dynamics, and the cost of love, her richly sardonic humor and acutely merciless observations may seem gentle, but look again, for they are edged with razors.

Celebrating twenty years of rare accomplishment, The Collected Stories introduces American readers to a luminous and unforgettable writer of short fiction.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Culled from three previous short story collections (A Nail on the Head, 1985; Concerning Virgins, 1990; and That Bad Woman, 1996) spanning more than 20 years, these 38 tales were written by popular Irish author Boylan from her late twenties through her fifties. In her introduction, Boylan quibbles with the term savage comedy, which critics have often used to describe her work. Her stories, however, are never less than disconcerting as again and again she writes about love stripped of all romanticism and revealed through a series of humiliating scenarios. A married woman moves heaven and earth to steal a weekend from her harried life to meet her bachelor lover for a romantic idyll only to be destroyed upon finding out that he is enamored of her domestic side. Rife with misunderstandings, often peopled by rejected spouses, her stories seem to revel in exposing the harshness of life. Maintaining a sure distance from her characters and heightening the thread of absurdity that snakes through all of her material, Boylan meticulously crafts a discomfiting vision of human nature. --Joanne Wilkinson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Irish writer Boylan is better known as a novelist (Beloved Stranger, etc.), but this collection of 38 short stories is a pleasing showcase for her quirky plotting and deceptively simple, smooth prose style. The shorter stories are more effective, most notably "My Son the Hero," in which a mother decides that her doltish adult son has committed a murder and takes matters into her own hands. "The Stolen Child" offers a series of musings on the nature of babies after a woman indulges her fascination with infants by briefly kidnapping the child of a woman with seven bratty, out-of-control kids. "The Little Madonna" takes a broader perspective on the issue of children, as an older woman offers a series of thought-provoking ruminations on how modern sexuality has affected child raising after she sees a tabloid story about the birth of a "perfect" baby girl. The longer stories are less consistent, as Boylan tends to rapidly change direction and pursue divergent narrative lines, losing control of her intriguing conceits. Her odd, conceptual approach to the art of the short story is something of an acquired taste, but these tales trace the development of her Patricia Highsmith-like tone and meticulous storytelling. Though her range is narrow, she is an appealing and idiosyncratic chronicler of the quirks and foibles of the Irish working class. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Acclaimed for her six novels, the Irish-born Boylan is also a gifted short story writer. This book, which is intended as an introduction for American readers, collects previously published pieces written from 1978 to 2000. Boylan usually manages a somewhat different twist on daily life. Her subjects are often people in prosaic situations: couples whose relationships have "gone bad" but who stay together because their options are limited, neighbors whose children worry about appearances, misunderstandings between children and adults, interactions between mothers and sons, families struggling with unique dynamics, and individuals struggling with their aging. In her introduction, Boylan describes her characters as "a consummately Irish collection of anarchists, dreamers, and outsiders," going on to say that while reviewers have described her work as "savage comedy," she prefers to call the stories "tales of life's infinite possibility and the comic grandeur of life's impossible dreams." These observations are apt, and the descriptions that Boylan provides are exquisitely rendered. Recommended for all lovers of the short story medium.-Ellen R. Cohen, Rockville, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.