Friday, 26 August 2016

"Sweet Home" Carys Bray

Sweet Home

Accomplished, moving and unnerving, Sweet Home is a small tour de force - The Independent

With psychological insight and a lightness of touch frequently found in fairy tales, Carys Bray delves under the surface of ordinary lives to explore loss, disappointment, frustrated expectations and regret. 

Shades of Angela Carter... that deceptively light touch delivers swift, hard punches to the solar plexus.
The Guardian 


Suburbia in all its tarnished glory - Carys Bray teases at the cracks, and pulls at all the loose threads dangling, in short stories that are funny and sad and achingly true.
Robert Shearman





They say there's no place like home. It's where the heart is...

Meet the little boy who believes in miracles.

Meet the mother who loves to bring babies home from the newborn aisle of her supermarket.

Meet the husband who carves a longed-for baby out of ice as a gift for his wife.

Meet the widow who is reminded of romance whilst standing at the kitchen sink

"Bray explores parenthood, loss, childhood and belonging with razor sharp prose....never afraid to epode the darkness that exists behind suburban front doors." Jenn Ashworth 

I have shamelessly borrowed lots of other quotes (largely taken from Bray's website www.carysbray.co.uk) as other reviewers have been able to capture the impact this book has on the reader much more eloquently than I ever will.

I adored this collection of 17 short stories.

Every now and again, usually when I am thinking about having a go at writing myself, I come across a book which shames me into screwing up every sheet of scribbled plot ideas I have as I stand humbled and in awe of the utter and complete skill of a seriously talented writer, realising I should never attempt to compete and just stick to reading! This book did just that.

This collection of short stories is only 180 pages long; each story ranges from very brief -almost flash fiction style- to three or four pages long, to six or seven pages maximum, so it can very easily be picked up and enjoyed whenever you have a spare minute. It's perfect for dipping in and out of -although you will not want to, as this is a book that needs to be truly savoured.

If like me, you try to read these tales without allowing for that ten minute period of stunned reflection after the last sentence has run like cold water down your spine, then you will end up burning dinner, letting your hundredth cup of tea go cold and come back to earth to find your children have quietly destroyed the house and eaten the entire secret supply of chocolate biscuits.

These stories are intense, powerful, emotionally and at times, heartbreaking. Above all, they are very original and show Bray to be an accomplished storyteller. They explore grief, motherhood, families and "home". It is a rich collection of dark, perceptively chilling tales.

Often in a collection of stories there are those that are stronger and weaker, but I did not find that here. I could quote endlessly from all of them. From the opening paragraph of the first story I knew I had discovered a real gem of a book of which I was going to love every sentence:

"She felt like an actress who has learned the wrong lines. She has rehearsed Mary Poppins only to find herself appearing in Night Mother." 

The opening story, "Everything a parent needs to know", sees a mother battling her way through a child's swimming lesson as words from her "hard-backed, hard-faced, hard-to-follow" parenting manuals haunt and taunt her. I loved the fictitious quotes which resonated deeply, as did their inappropriateness and smugness as the mother struggles through a trying situation. "Just in Case" left me with a shudder but also a sadness and "My burglar" was equally poignant.

"Sweet Home" is a fantastic retelling of "Hansel and Gretel" and also subtly shows the reader how these short stories could also be fables and fairy tales for a contemporary audience as they echo many of the traits and lure the reader into the same kind of hypnotic, mediative state.

Short stories are a real art form and I think, deceptively hard to write. This collection gives Bray a chance to flaunt the full range of her talent and her intelligent - and brave- insight into aspects of "home" which are sometimes considered taboo or highly emotive and sensitive. She handles them expertly. This is a very dark collection of tales but I did not find it depressing or oppressive. Bray's lyrical writing is captivating and a treads a well judged balance between heartbreak, shock and humour. Bray seems to have a wealth of experience and understanding of human nature beyond her years and I am impressed with her ability to write about a range of issues and themes with such conviction, acuteness and awareness. As The Times said, "Bray writes with clarity, intelligence and authenticity."

Bray is a talented writer - read everything she's written and cross your fingers for more.

For more recommendations and reviews please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk).

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