This is a book of short stories by Australian author Paddy O’Reilly. She has published one novel The Factory. Denise O’Dea in Australian Book Review says of The Factory: ‘…it turned an ingenious intellectual premise into a complex, gripping, flesh-and-blood story. It was full of ideas about history, art, ego and community, but these all emerged seamlessly from the pacy main plot’ (2007, p. 44). Her short stories in this collection have won prizes and appeared previously in the prominent literary journals: Meanjin, Southerly, Westerly and Island. Not to mention anthologies…
Here is my experience of them (***** indicates my favourites):
‘Speak to Me’ – An alien blob in her drawer. Is it about loneliness? Laconic and unassuming. Goes to the shrink knowing she might be crazy. Sad ending – never knowing.
‘Inheritance’ – Facing the death of a family member, memory of family – place. How a person becomes a part of the place.
‘Save Our School’ – Strong feminine character. Potent imaginary. Deserved its place in Best Australian Stories 2006.
‘My Mother-in-law in the Family Tree’ – Culture-clash, slow dawning of understanding. Annoyance subsides when a witness of decline.
‘The End of the World’ – Relationship break-up. Leaving behind. ACTION, freedom.
‘Armadillo’ – ***** Dad went to the US. Had a fascination (capital web). Never came home. US taking over Aus themes. Subtly relevant.
‘Future Girl’ – poignant. The only one born like that to live past 16. Suspected to be a new race… alone.
‘The Rules of Fishing’ – Conversation piece. Chaos Theory.
‘Snapshots of Strangers’ – Godfather ran off when she was young. Father withered away. Family (hidden) questions. Morals.
‘The Wrestlers’ – ***** dark/close sibling relationship lost when one grows. The only ones that understood each other. Lost.
‘The Last Visit’ – moving. A prostitute. Sister visits but there is a fuzzy connection. Will go on with her life.
‘Women’s Trouble’ – In Japan. Indian-Aus woman helping cross-dresser to get a job. About ‘the other’.
‘Inches Apart’ – Person stares at friend’s reflection – unspoken hint of unrequitedness.
‘Where We Came From’ – Her mother’s stories, ‘spin’ of difference, excitement. Her father is after all her real father.
‘The Litter’ – Well told from a child’s eye. The harsh shove of responsibility.
‘Glass Heart’ – A friendship. Dreams and hopes. One is away in India and the other is left behind.
‘Fluid’ – ***** Sad girl has an affair with older man. Her father died – missing. Caught in traffic. Loses her baby.
‘Distance Runner’ – ***** poignant, beautiful and sad. In pieces:
‘Enclosure’ – frightening.
‘Supplication’ – negative tourism.
‘Patience’ – convoluted.
‘Stirring’ – sensation.
Distance Runners –
‘I look around, take in the scene, mark this point in time as another moment that I will be sure to remember’ (p. 221).
O’Dea, D 2007 ‘Your green milieu’, Australian Book Review, No. 291, p. 44.
Drewe, R (ed.) 2006, The Best Australian Stories 2006, Black Inc., Melbourne.