In brief: A collection of powerful, brutally honest short stories about women with no holds barred.
The good: Lisa Taddeo dares to write what others don’t touch.
The not-so-good: Would have loved a full-length story about any of these characters.
Why I chose it: Always up for a great short story collection. Thank you to Bloomsbury for the copy.
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus (Bloomsbury)
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Lisa Taddeo is a bold writer, both in content and style. She writes how her characters (predominantly women) are really feeling, with no holds barred. Her collection of short stories, Ghost Lover, is raw, honest and doesn’t care it makes someone clutch their pearls or gasp out loud.
There are nine stories in this collection, with one of the most common themes being how women are treated badly by men – and how they extract their revenge (or not). The women in these stories are battered and bruised emotionally but they all know exactly what they want. Sometimes they go to any length to get it, with some making a successful business out of it (the main character in Ghost Lover), sometimes they are happy to stand on the sidelines and take small bites when available (Maid Marian). Grief is also a recurring theme – death of a parent (A Suburban Weekend) or the loss of youth (Air Supply, Grace Magorian). A couple of the stories are interlinked, featuring minor characters from previous stories and giving further insight into their motivations and grievances.
One thing that all the stories have in common is that they are open to any topic or aspect of the characters, good or bad. It is a little shocking at first, but it is also refreshing as the characters are brutally honest with the reader, even if their actions and feelings aren’t following the mainstream or conventionally accepted. The characters are well drawn in succinct terms. so that when Taddeo shows their darker side, it produces a stronger reaction from the reader. (We thought we had the character sussed out, but obviously not!) Taddeo is also not afraid to comment on how ageing women are discarded by society, nor how badly women treat each other. I loved how visceral the feelings were written, with venom (or alternatively, despair) dripping from each sentence. Taddeo writes powerfully, taking the sting out of the patriarchy and putting back in the hands of her female characters, with hard-hitting results. Definitely worth a read, but not if you’re looking for happy endings!