Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Secret Lives of People in Love: Stories by Simon Van Booy

The Secret Lives of People in Love is the debut collection of short stories by Simon Van Booy, which I picked up after reading (and loving) his second book, Love Begins in Winter. That's backwards of how I usually do things, but due to availability and wanting to get the books read in time for the book tour, I delved into Van Booy's second collection first. What this meant was that when I went to read The Secret Lives of People in Love, I was expecting the stories to be a certain way, and was surprised to find them quite different, although with the same incredible lyrical beautiful writing present in Love Begins in Winter.

The major difference between the two collections is the length of the stories, while Van Booy's first collection has 19 stories in, his second despite being of a similar length has only 5. The Secret Lives of People in Love contains stories of only 3 pages, with the longest being about 20 pages. What this means most of the time is that while the reader gets a rich look into the lives of the character, it is also a very brief look, in a sense that reminded me very much of Raymond Carver in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (despite their writing styles being extremely different). This flash into an often gray and saddening world is both poetic and tragic in Van Booy's skilled hands.

There are too many stories to discuss each one individually, but overall I enjoyed them although there were definitely a few that didn't have much impact. The collection simply didn't have the consistent power that is present in Love Begins in Winter, perhaps because of the difference in length, meaning that the reader has so much less time to get to know the characters before they vanish. One story that I loved was "Apples" in which a shoemaker plants an orchard of apples in New York City to remember his daughter. Another one that stuck with me was "As Much Below as Up Above" in which a man narrowly escapes death and contemplates the demise of so many of his friends. 

Each story in this book was a soft moment in time, mean to be savoured instead of rushed. Ultimately, The Secret Lives of People in Love is a calm and quiet collection, filled with beauty although not- as I found Van Booy's follow up Love Begins in Winter to be- overwhelmed with it. I'm not always a fan of short stories, but I know that no matter the form I will be certain to pick up whatever Simon Van Booy publishes in the future.

Release Date: May 1st, 2007
Pages: 175
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

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