Anne Enright - Taking Pictures (4 stars)

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Anne Enright

(Jonathan Cape)

SHORT STORIES

The unheralded winner of last year’s Booker Prize with fourth novel The Gathering, Anne Enright here presents her second collection of short fiction. The first was also her debut publication, 1991’s The Portable Virgin, although any hint that the timeliness of this volume is coordinated to cash in on Booker glory is offset by the quality of its contents. Born and based in Ireland, Enright (a graduate of the University of East Anglia’s prestigious creative writing course) writes with the easy lyricism that’s stereotypically associated with an author of her background. Yet her voice accentuates her characters’ easy identification with life.

All female, all ages, all meeting some challenge in their life – puberty, pregnancy, marriage and marital frustration (theirs and those of their male friends) – the characters meet these circumstances with a natural, conversational, first person flow of introspection. True, they are all particularly overly-analytical characters, but then which of us isn’t from time to time? Such personalities at least make great reading.

While these are expertly-crafted short tales, Enright has made it her position to describe the characters rather than find a solution for them. So, two teenage girls worrying over the cancer of a male friend’s mother is wrapped up in the hurricane of youthful politics that such individuals tend to invent, while issues of mortality remain unresolved by the end. Another older woman, meanwhile, drowns her dissatisfaction with life by entering an affair with a mentally ill friend. These are welcoming, gorgeously-told tales which often disguise their dark hearts well.

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