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The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William…

The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth (original 2017; edition 2018)

by William Boyd (Author)

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565313,811 (3.56)4
Title:The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth
Authors:William Boyd (Author)
Info:Penguin (2018), Edition: 2, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Short Stories

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The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd (2017)



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Partly good and partly disappointing: ‘The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth’, the latest collection of short stories by William Boyd, is a bit of a curate’s egg. The shorter the stories, the more satisfying.
Organised in three parts, the first comprises seven short stories. If asked for my favourite from Part 1, I would say the first, ‘The Man Who Liked Kissing Women’. Ludo Abernathy is an art dealer who has foresworn affairs, his previous dalliances having finished three marriages. Now, he sticks to kissing women. Except when he can’t resist the temptation of making a killing on a Lucien Freud painting.
The title story, the longest in the anthology, makes up Part 2. It is more novella than short story, and I almost wish Boyd had developed it as such with a full plotline rather than letting Bethany Mellmoth drift from scene to scene. Bethany is a naïve twenty-something who drifts from boyfriend to boyfriend, dreaming of what she can do with her life but failing to make it happen. Each time it goes wrong, she gives up and moves back with her mother. It was a pleasant read but I’m unclear of Boyd’s central message – perhaps, the over-reliance of young drifters on parents rather than being truly independent – which meant I felt no urgency to read to the end. Of course I did. Bethany’s drifting started to annoy me; perhaps that was Boyd’s point?
Part 3 comprised one story, ‘The Vanishing Game: An Adventure’ which stopped abruptly. It starts off well: Alec Dunbar is an actor who keeps being called to auditions, mistakenly for Alexa Dunbar. His bad day improves when an actress who is waiting for an audition for the same film, offers him £1000 to deliver a package for her to Scotland. Dunbar’s road journey is peppered with references to the various films he has appeared in, and this is humorous. But the action becomes increasingly oddball, and the ending was disappointing. I prefer stories and novels that don’t tie up all the loose ends, but this one finished with too much remaining unexplained.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Jun 3, 2018 |
I feel as though I am being a bit harsh with this rating but I have just scored it after reading the preposterous plot of 'The Vanishing Game'. I suppose it is a John Buchan homage and whilst I could swallow the plot devices in an early 20th Century setting it just seems silly in 2017. Perhaps I shpould reconsider. ( )
  DukeofEarl | Jan 23, 2018 |
Bethany Mellmoth is drifter in life, she has short term affairs with unsuitable men and flirts with the idea of being an actress but has to get bailed out by her mother each time. Alec Dunbar is an unsuccessful actor inveigled into transporting something to the north of Scotland but which turns into a frightening adventure. Yves is an author who takes his revenge on a cruel reviewer. An art dealer is caught out by his numerous affairs. in a series of short and longer stories Boyd explores different aspects of life an love.

I am not a big fan of short stories but I am a fan of William Boyd so I interested to read this latest offering. In fact I was pleasantly surprised, some stories were excellent, some less so but the ones that were less successful were easily finished. The longer episodes about Bethany Mellmoth were actually better left as stories and not developed into a novel, in the same way that Bethany never developed her novel. She reminded me of so many girls who come from a relatively well-off background and so can afford to flirt with careers for years without ever settling down. I found the 'Boys Own Adventure' involving Alec Dunbar as silly as could be but I skipped through it happily. All in all, a mixed bag of tales but at their best they are superb. I wonder if this were a few musings that Boyd had made as potentially being good enough to develop into novels but enjoyed nevertheless. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Dec 24, 2017 |
William Boyd is one of my favourite authors. Indeed, I consider that he is probably the greatest living British author, and I think I would happily read his shopping lists. The only other contender I ca think of is John le Carré, who certainly deserves to be thought of as so much more than simply a great writer of spy novels. Yet even with his extraordinary, and inimitable prose style, to my mind le Carré just loses out to the scope of Boyd’s imagination and his forensic capacity to lay bare a character’s psyche.

I had, therefore, been eagerly awaiting this book for several weeks, ever since I read in the literary press of its impending publication. I am not generally keen on short stories, and was a little disappointed to find that this was not a novel, but Boyd didn’t disappoint. Indeed, the title story is really more of a novella than a short story, and gives a marvellous portrayal of a slightly feckless but very likeable young woman as she struggles to cope with the strains of living in London on a low income, generated from a series of short term low profile jobs, struggling to find a direction in life and to sustain relationships. The meld of plausible characters and convincing plots is one of Boyd’s trademarks, and he brings it into play here. After one hundred pages I felt I had known Bethany Mellmoth all her life.

The other stories are just as strong, and Boyd is happy to experiment with the genre. One of them unfolds the story of a couple’s relationship in reverse, poignantly flagging up signposts to the reader of impending separation that the characters themselves were too self-absorbed to see. The others are just as strong – there are no weak stories or ‘fillers’ in this collection at all, and it stands as a worthy addition to an already top notch corpus. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Nov 12, 2017 |
William Boyd’s collection of stories “The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth“ is not easy to review. As it often with such an assembly of very various texts, differing in length and topic, not connected in any way, you cannot pay them all the due respect in a review. The opening is great, I absolutely liked the the story about the art dealer and womanizer Ludo who immediately after having married one is looking for the next wife. The story about the thief did not really appeal to me, it was a mere enumeration without a real story, whereas the story of the freeing of the monkey had some deeper message. The longest and title providing story was the one about Bethany Mellmoth. Actually, I think it would have also made a good novel if extended a bit. Bethany is an interesting character and I think her make-up could have provided more to fill the pages of a whole book. In the last story, we even get a kind of short thriller which I also liked a lot. You sense that there is something odd about the woman and job for Dunbar, but it is hard to say what is wrong about it. William Boyd knows how to tell a story and he definitely is best in longer narrations such as the one about Bethany’s dreams.

One reoccurring topic in several stories is love, or rather: unfulfilled love. The characters are looking for the one person with whom they can spend the rest of their life, but they only encounter the ones who do not really match or who have mischievous plans. Or they themselves are actually unable to love and to be faithful. Loneliness can be found in many of them which gives the whole collection a kind of underlying melancholy.

All in all, there is something in every single story and a lot of wit in Boyd’s writing make reading the stories a great pleasure. In the narration of Bethany’s dreams he somehow sums at a point what life and the core of his stories are about, what he not only tries but masterly manages to portray:

Bethany is suspicious – this is not normal: everything seems to be going well and this is not how the world works – no. Life is a dysfunctioning system, she knows: failure, breakdown, disappointment, frustration – where are you hiding? ( )
  miss.mesmerized | Nov 4, 2017 |
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A philandering art dealer tries to give up casual love affairs - seeking only passionate kisses as a substitute. A man recounts his personal history through the things he has stolen from others throughout his life. A couple chart the journey of their five year relationship backwards, from awkward reunion to lovelorn first encounter. And, at the heart of the book, a 24-year old young woman, Bethany Mellmoth, embarks on a year-long journey of wishful and tentative self-discovery. The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth depicts the random encounters that bring the past bubbling to the surface; the impulsive decisions that irrevocably shape a life; and the endless hesitations and loss-of-nerve that wickedly complicate it. These funny, surprising and moving stories are a resounding confirmation of Boyd's powers as one of our most original and compelling storytellers.… (more)

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