Short stories. I really, really am trying to get into them.
I tackled A Bird on Every Tree by Carol Bruneau, determined to like it. And I really liked the first short story, called ‘The Race,’ about a long distance swim. The swimmer is trying to outpace not just her rivals, but her life too. I felt the chill of the water, the struggle to push through, as the narrator swam.
The second short story ‘Doves’ I had actually read before, time and place entirely unremembered, but I felt good about that. Gave myself a little back pat.
I really enjoyed Bruneau’s lively description of places, and the details she uses to bring back a memory and make them feel alive. In ‘The Grotto’, she writes: “Brakes juddering, the coach lurched and swayed through sun-drenched streets, gears gnashing as it lumbered uphill. Stomachs swayed with it …” Her descriptions in the story, set in France, remind me so much of being on a tour bus exactly like that when I was in high school and visiting Paris. This is the magic of good writing: it brings up memories you’d long forgotten, pulled up by a turn of phrase or the right word in the right place.
She does this over and over again, with stories set in Germany, and Nova Scotia, both places I have not been but can feel and picture vividly, thanks to the description of place. Not everyone does it so well as Bruneau has in this collection.