Tuesday 8 November 2022

Life Without Children

Finished September 30
Life Without Children: Short Stories by Roddy Doyle

I always enjoy reading Roddy Doyle and this collection is an intriguing one. This book contains ten short stories, all taking place in Ireland during the pandemic, and all are around relationships.
Box Sets has a couple, Sam and Emer, reacting in their own ways to the pandemic. Sam has lost his job and doesn't muster the energy to look for a new one, instead losing himself in watching season after season of TV series, catching up on many he'd never watched when they came out. Emer is calm but removed. When Sam's frustration reaches a point where he finds himself having angry outbursts, this changes the dynamic and forces change on both of them.
Curfew has issues of health as well as bringing the male character memories of his own father.
Life without Children looks at a couple whose children have left home and how the pandemic changes the family dynamic.
Gone has alternating viewpoints of a couple where the wife has left the home just before the lockdown begins.
Nurse focuses on health and death in the context of a family.
Masks has a man walking through the streets, finding himself frustrated and disgusted by the discarded masks that he see everywhere and taking an unusual and provoking action as a result.
The Charger is told by a man who has come late to the ownership of a cellphone and, in the context of a stressful situation, finds himself focused on finding the phone charger, while he feels alone despite having all four of his daughters living back home during this time. The situation brings back the feelings from his childhood of abandonment.
The Funeral has Bob and Nell as a long-married couple with Bob's reaction to the death of his mother and the circumstances of his position as the responsible son.
Worms has Joe finding himself with earworms linked to specific places or tasks in his life, a quirk that at first he keeps to himself and then when his wife Thelma learns about it and joins in, finds himself reacting emotionally in a negative way until he realizes his underlying feelings towards her.
The last story, Five Lamps, has a man defying the lockdown and driving for hours to the city to look for his estranged son. He walks the streets, returning to his car each night, interacting with the shopkeepers and homeless as he plans on what to say to repair the relationship.
These stories show Doyle's skill with showing the complexities of human relationships, the emotions and resentments, the closeness and the frustration, all set within a very stressful time for everyone. A brilliant collection

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