Graham Joyce

All posts tagged Graham Joyce

Short Stories Challenge – Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Published September 13, 2016 by bibliobeth

13596672

What’s Tiger Moth all about?:

The final story in this collection introduces us to Lenny, a thirty-five year old man who is fed up with his job and fed up with his personal situation, living at home with his mother and afraid to finally “cut the apron strings,” dreading her reaction.

What did I think?:

I think I’ve mentioned before that the stories in this collection by Graham Joyce have been a bit hit and miss for me. Some of them, like the excellent Leningrad Nights have completely bowled me over whilst others like Candia, I’ve been slightly less enamoured with. I am pleased to report however, that Tiger Moth is a return to the writing style that I love from the author and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lenny, a lovely character whose life seems yet to begin after being closeted away by an over-protective and emotionally challenging mother.

Lenny is working as a divorce solicitor and has become greatly disillusioned with his profession, the huge amount of cases he is expected to undertake and his useless secretary who lets him know at every available opportunity how “very stressed,” she is (whilst hiding a gardening magazine she has been reading on her lap). Things at home are difficult for Lenny too – his mother coddles him as if he were still a child, making his dinner each night, washing and ironing his clothes and making all his big decisions for him (even frightening away potential girlfriends we can imagine!).

Determined to escape his mother’s clutches, Lenny decides to go for an interview in Nottingham where he is offered a very tempting deal and re-location package but is at war with himself whether he will be able to have the strength to leave his mother. Their relationship has always been quite fraught, ever since the day his father died and they moved away from the house they had lived in as a family. On the way back from the interview however, he comes across two small boys that reminds him of a time when he met two remarkably similar boys on the day they moved house. He realises that he is being given a second chance to change his life and stand up to his mother once and for all.

I really enjoyed everything about this story. I felt so sorry for the loveable and downtrodden Lenny and was rooting for him until the end hoping that he would have the strength to break the cycle he had got himself into with his mother, who used him at all times as an emotional crutch and was hugely manipulative. I also appreciated the slice of humour that Graham Joyce brought to the story, especially at the beginning where Lenny is trying to deal with a particularly difficult client with a hilarious outcome. This was a really satisfying end to a short story collection that has had both highs and lows for me personally and I look forward to reading more from Graham Joyce.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

 

Advertisements

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

453rfd670

Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Published February 2, 2016 by bibliobeth

13596672

What’s Under The Pylon all about?:

A group of young children spend their last summer before secondary school playing under a gigantic electricity pylon which appears to have strange and unnerving properties.

What did I think?:

Graham Joyce has a real talent for finding the creepiness and darkness in everyday objects which usually results in stories that stay with you long after you have finished them. In Under The Pylon, as you may suspect from the name, the narrative revolves around a large electricity pylon which provides a source of shelter and amusement for one particular group of friends as they negotiate the difficult years of adolescence. Our male narrator is never named but this isn’t really necessary for the story and we do hear about his friends in some detail from his point of view.

We have Joy, a precocious young girl who despite her tender age of eleven years old, sports a full face of make-up at all times and delights in flirting with the male members of their group even if they don’t seem particularly bothered by her behaviour having grown bored of her constant need for attention. The second girl in the group, Tania, is in our narrator’s class and we sense he has a bit of a soft spot for her. She ends up becoming an integral part of the story when strange things start happening beneath the pylon. Lastly, we have two boys – Kev who tends to have favourite words for the month, this particular month’s being “Crap,” which he tends to over-use slightly. We don’t really hear much from him apart from, you guessed it, the occasional “Crap!” at various times. Then there is Clive, who our narrator describes purely as “a bit strange,” and who “stared at things,” but who also plays a pivotal role in events. Clive claims that he can hear whole conversations from just standing the pylon. For instance, he swears blindly that Mrs Astley is cheating on her husband and sleeping with the local pub landlord and this may be verified by our narrator seeing the aforesaid woman sneaking into the pub by the back entrance which he finds slightly odd.

The kids have been warned not to play under the pylon, in wet or dry weather but as with many parental rules at this age, they are disobeyed. Nothing really awful goes on when the group meets however, simply your typical teenage rebellions like passing round cider and sharing cigarettes. It is only when our narrator attempts to hypnotise his friends for a laugh that the really strange things start occurring. The pylon appears to have a quiet but eerie power that surges through and leads to members of the group doing things that they would never dream of in normal circumstances. It is one such incident involving our narrator and Tania that leads to a fracture within the group and paves the way for a dramatic climax that changes the lives of certain members irrevocably.

This was a good, solid read from Graham Joyce with just the right mixture of thrilling moments and subtle darkness. The addition of characters like the Nantwich family with their strange, mute daughter Olive was a great way to add those extra chills and sense of dread to the proceedings. The reader never finds out what exactly is going on under the pylon and why it is happening but I feel this added a bit more mystery to the story and I used my own imagination to fill those gaps. If I compared it to the other stories in the collection I’d probably say it was one that I liked more than others but not as much as some, my personal award for the best has already gone to the amazing Leningrad Nights which I doubt will be topped as I only have one more story to read. Under The Pylon is still classic Joyce however so if you’re a fan, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – October to December

Published October 2, 2015 by bibliobeth

teaching-the-short-story-2-638

Image from http://www.slideshare.net/ernella32/teaching-the-short-story

It’s nearly the end of the year and here’s what I’ll be reading short story wise to see out 2015!

Week beginning 5th October

Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 12th October

Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 19th October

A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 26th October

The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd November

The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th November

Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th November

Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 23rd November

The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th November

We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 7th December

The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 14th December

Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 21st December

A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 28th December

The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Published September 7, 2015 by bibliobeth

13596672

What’s Candia all about?:

A young man on holiday in Candia spies a former colleague outside a bar and after the two re-connect our narrator finds out the true meaning of being trapped in a town.

What did I think?:

I’ve found the short stories in this collection by Graham Joyce to be a bit hit and miss (apart from the wonderful Leningrad Nights) so I’m afraid I didn’t go into this story with much expectation. However I was delighted to find this eerie little tale fascinating and it reinforced my belief in the power of this author’s writing. The story begins with our narrator arriving on holiday in Candia and happening upon his former work colleague, Ben Wheeler who appears to be drowning his sorrows outside a bar. Ben doesn’t appear to be happy upon seeing our narrator and in fact, can’t really place where he knows him from.

As for our narrator, he knows Ben very well. They met when both working at Aid Direct, a charity where Ben was the big cheese enjoying the high life, women and champagne although not necessarily in that order. Then it came about that the charity wasn’t er… exactly being charitable and a lot of the money was going into the directors own pockets rather than for food boxes to desperate countries. Ben was asked to leave immediately but before he does, he meets our narrator in a lift and by throwing some cash at him, persuades him to ask a woman in his department to meet him in the stationary cupboard. Our narrator is perfectly honest in that he agreed to do this partially out of spite as he had himself been knocked back by that woman before, but he isn’t proud of himself for doing it, especially when the woman appears back on the office floor, visibly distressed and angry.

Back to the present day and our narrator is slightly worried about Ben. He looks terrible, smells worse, there is a haunted look in his eye and he believes that he cannot leave the town. When our narrator persuades him to join him for dinner as it his his birthday, Ben visibly brightens up and insists that they go to a place called The Shades Club. He believes it should be open as the first and only time he visited it was also his birthday. So, this is all I’m going to say on the plot as to say anything else would spoil the story horribly for anyone who hasn’t read it. All I will say is that after our narrator visits the club he begins to understand why Ben cannot leave Candia.

I loved this story! Graham Joyce reels you in slowly and methodically until you’re left squirming on that hook wondering what on earth happened. It turned into something that I definitely wasn’t expecting and I was both surprised and a little bit repelled at the turn it took, so much that I instantly went back to the beginning and read it again to see if I could pick up the trail of breadcrumbs the author leaves us. It has left such an impression on me that I’m certain I’m going to be thinking about it for a while and for me, ranks up there with his greatest work. Thank you Graham Joyce for restoring my faith in your brilliant (and creepy) writing!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

NEXT SHORT STORY: Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – July to September

Published July 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

short story

Welcome to another three months of short stories! This little lot should see me through into the autumn.

Week beginning 6th July

Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 13th July

Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 20th July

The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 27th July

Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 3rd August

Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The

Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 10th August

Necessary Women by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 17th August

The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 24th August

Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Week beginning 31st August

The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 7th September

The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Week beginning 14th September

Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st September

The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th September

The Wedding Gig by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Short Stories Challenge – The Oversoul by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Published April 11, 2015 by bibliobeth

13596672

What’s The Oversoul all about?:

The Oversoul is about an eighteen year old boy called Frank who spends most of his time smoking with his friend at the quarry pond until his friend leaves to make a new life in London. Frank becomes infatuated with a young mother he sees with her children at the pond and slowly starts to discover who he really is.

What did I think?:

After the beauty of Graham Joyce’s award winning story, Leningrad Nights in this collection, every story following it has been somewhat of a disappointment to me, this one unfortunately more than the others. Our narrator is eighteen year old Frank who hasn’t really figured out what he wants to do with his life yet. He spends most of his days down at the quarry smoking with his best friend Shadrack. The story begins promisingly enough when Frank tells us about some strange blue-green algae (possibly hazardous to your health) that lives in the quarry water and that one day he felt something rise up inside him that had come directly from the water. Intriguing enough, you might think. Frank also has quite an interesting relationship with his parents, especially his father who constantly refers to him in the third person, even when he is in the same room – “Where’s he going? Why hasn’t he got a job yet?.”

Things take a drastic turn however when Shadrack informs Frank that he’s tired of his mundane existence and is moving to London to be in a rock band, to find his superhuman or as he refers to it, his “oversoul.” Frank is disappointed but still continues to go down to the quarry each day where his head is turned by a beautiful young mother who takes her two children to the quarry to play. At first he just watches her with the aid of some cheap binoculars although he feels slightly seedy about doing this. When he musters enough courage to talk to her, he warns her about the dangers of the blue-green algae but is disappointed by the conversation they have, feeling a bit like a social failure. Over time and a lot of observation, Frank finally manages to find the “oversoul” within himself when he rescues one of the children from a potentially dangerous situation and the reader begins to see a bit of optimism for his future.

I’m finding it quite difficult to express how I feel about this story. I didn’t feel the need to read it a second time as I believe I understood what the author was trying to say but it just left me feeling fairly indifferent. It has a lot of potential for sure with the mysterious blue-green algae, the entity that arises in Frank and the relationship he has with his parents but I’m not sure that enough was made of these strands to form the story that it could have been, if that makes any sense. I do enjoy Graham Joyce’s style of writing and I always appreciate a little darkness in the narrative but I’m afraid this story just didn’t do it for me.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

1194984978279254934two_star_rating_saurabh__01.svg

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Apple by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories