This week I’m reading: Homesickness by Colin Barrett

Homesickness is a collection of short stories by Irish writer Colin Barrett, published in 2022.

Here’s Barrett reading from a part of his book:

The Guardian says:

A couple of stories are about writers, and all of them are, in some way, about writing, about the necessity and foolishness of one or another style as we circle what cannot be said. In each of Barrett’s styles, however, there is an utterness to his attention, a devotion to the lives of his characters, that shifts the work into some more lasting place. Barrett is already one of the leading writers of the Irish short story, which is to braggingly say, one of the leading writers of the short story anywhere. He means every word and regrets every word. He just kills it.

I must admit that I don’t usually read a lot of short stories; it’s not a genre that I dip into very often, although recently I enjoyed 19 Love Songs by David Levithan.

So, what made me pick up this collection by Barrett? Quite simply, I found it in a Little Free Library and thought it looked interesting.

All the stories bar one are set in Ireland (the exception being set in Toronto, Canada). What ties all these stories together is the richness of the characters, and what they say to each other; the dialogue often reveals all we need to know about these people, living their lives in small Irish towns.

iNews says:

You could open Homesickness at any page and find sentences of vim and elegance, ringing dialogue (“Cats are awful eerie creatures…”) and similes to savour: a pint of Guinness with a “head on it as neat as a hotel duvet” or, a few pages later, “dozens of cows stood around in the car park, gormless as wardrobes”.

If Barrett’s prose and dialogue occasionally sound over-fluent, they are usually counterpointed by the starkness of the setting and subject matter. He writes about people who have time on their hands in the day, living outside the routines of work or education. There is violence, depression, “sudsy fellatio” between men in a Land Rover after a drug deal. These characters may exist on the margins, but Barrett puts them at the centre of their own worlds.

These stories may be short, but they are potent and are here to be savoured; don’t rush through this book, take your time.

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