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Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell
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Multitudes

by Lucy Caldwell

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
There's little less satisfying than a short story that doesn't get it quite right. And it's a hard medium to master; every element that a novel allows chapters to communicate, must be evident in a handful of paragraphs. Fully rounded characters must spring from a half dozen lines and the theme and plot must be pared down until each sentence serves a specific purpose. But when a short story works, it's like a shot of whiskey or a kick in the head, everything is there, all at once.

Lucy Caldwell's book of short stories is a rare case of a collection in which each of the eleven stories works. Centered on the city of Belfast, the collection tells of ordinary people, usually children or teenagers, figuring out life. Often the protagonists feel like outsiders, or are dissatisfied in ways that can't always be communicated to their friends or family. Belfast, its weather, houses, roads and schools, is evocatively described. This is a lovely collection of stories, each of which stands ably on its own. I'll be looking for more by this author. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Apr 29, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
“Before we are born, we decide in advance the lives we are going to live, the events in them, the people, the choices. We decide according to the lessons we want to learn, and all of us have already lived here many times over, learning new and different lessons, meeting over and over the same people in endlessly new configurations.”

What a fine book Lucy Caldwell's first short story collection is. Most of the collection's eleven stories take place in East Belfast in the 1980s and 1990s, where there are places "you never, ever go, not on purpose and not even by accident. One wrong turn, one wrong consonant; that’s all it takes.” She sensitively captures the sectarian violence, poverty, and bitter history of her setting. But there is much more to be found in this nuanced collection, which ventures into surprising and unexpected places.

Most of the stories feature young female characters, and are coming-of-age stories of varying sorts. We see her vulnerable girls struggling with their sexuality, how to belong, and the tribulations (and humiliations) of making your way in a hard and unforgiving world. There are moments of tender insight, and moments of dark hilarity. There is sly wit in abundance, and Caldwell has an uncanny touch for finding just the right zinger at the right moment that takes a story in a surprising direction. This can be disconcerting, but in a good way -- we're often kept off balance and forced to question our assumptions. Her insights are unsettling.

My favorite was "Poison," a wickedly creepy story of obsession gone very wrong involving a group of schoolgirls and their language teacher. Other high points for me were "Killing Time" (a comic -- yes -- take on suicide) and "Here We Are" (a tender and unconventional love story). The title story is also excellent.

It's an uneven collection, but consistently strong. And better yet, it's a collection with coherence. Like the best collections, the stories here work together to provide a whole that is even stronger than the sum of its parts.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Strongly recommended.

(Thank you to Faber & Faber for a complimentary copy in exchange for an unbiased review.) ( )
  Wickabod | Apr 24, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Caldwell achieves real emotional clarity in these eleven stories focusing on girls and women navigating the waters of social expectation, tumultuous relationships, and yearning for identity. "Thirteen" in particular has stuck with me - an all too familiar tale of friends growing apart at the dawn of adolescence. It's a testament to her intelligence of feeling and detail that these stories resonate with such rich depth, despite their fairly commonplace subject matter. As with all my favorite short story collections, I wanted to pause and sit with each offering before embarking on the next. ( )
  wevans | Apr 3, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Multitudes was only my second time reading a collection of short stories (the first being Anthony Doerr’s The Shell Collector). It features 11 stories varying in length from 10-25 pages each, satisfying but short enough to leave you wanting more. They’re the perfect length to read one each night. Her stories are heartfelt with very relatable characters. I did like some more than others, but it was a worthwhile read overall!
  uherekaa | Mar 24, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Multitudes presents a perplexing work. On one hand, the stories are often dark, avoiding a happy ending. On the other hand, Lucy Caldwell's style of writing I found incredibly comforting. I don't know if that undercuts the darkness of the content or makes it bearable. In either case, I was thankful for the combination of content and style. Caldwell is a talented writer and I hope to read more from her. ( )
1 vote Sean191 | Mar 2, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
Ain't nothing but a stranger in this world 
I'm nothing but a stranger in this world 
I got a home on his 
in another land 
So far away 
So far away  
--Van Morrison, 'Astral Weeks'
Dedication
For William 
and everything that brought you, us, here, now
First words
The big ship sails on the Ally ally o, your youngest sister is singing, the Ally ally o, the Ally ally o, the big ship sails on the Ally ally o on the last day of September.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571313507, Paperback)

"A writer of rare elegance and beauty, Caldwell doesn't just get inside her characters' minds. She perches in the precarious chambers of their hearts, telling their stories truthfully and tenderly." (Independent). Multitudes is the beautiful debut story collection from the acclaimed, prize-winning novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell. From Belfast to London and back again the ten stories that comprise Caldwell's first collection explore the many facets of growing up - the pain and the heartache, the tenderness and the joy, the fleeting and the formative - or 'the drunkenness of things being various'. Stories of longing and belonging, they culminate with the heart-wrenching and unforgettable title story.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 27 May 2016 07:31:09 -0400)

Multitudes is the beautiful debut story collection from the acclaimed, prize-winning novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell. From Belfast to London and back again the ten stories that comprise Caldwell's first collection explore the many facets of growing up - the pain and the heartache, the tenderness and the joy, the fleeting and the formative - or 'the drunkenness of things being various'. Stories of longing and belonging, they culminate with the heart-wrenching and unforgettable title story.… (more)

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