“May your brief candle shine brightly.”
This collection of short stories follows an antique Breitling watch around England as it passes from unlucky owner to unlucky owner through mistaken gifts, payments in lieu and antique shops.
It really reminded me of Roald Dahl’s short stories; all of the stories end with something bad for the Everyman who behaves badly in a specific way. Financial loss for the greedy man, a ruined present for the jealous man. It’s extremely clever and well-constructed, the endings for each story are completely appropriate for the bad behaviour within, I just couldn’t take the dread any more! It was like watching a car crash in slow motion, every 25 pages.
What is very well done is the character development – Wood only has about 20 pages with each character to set them up for their fall. I noticed that most of the characters were pretty similar – all men around the 40-year-old mark. I wonder if that was an intentional study of the age (like The Sense of an Ending), or whether the author found that an easy age group to write a generic person with one specific tragic flaw.
The writing is clear and clever without being obtrusive. Everything is in third person non-omniscient (my technical term for when the reader only knows what the character knows, and there is lots of internal monologue) which takes a certain level of commitment. The settings were generally irrelevant although primarily London-based, and perfectly fine – the short story format permits lots of travelling around without any need to develop one place very much.
I’m not at all suggesting this is badly written or not worth reading – a reader less prone to worrying than myself would almost definitely enjoy it.