Book Review – The Bigness of the World: Stories

by Lori Ostlund
Started: 28th January 2016
Finished: 27th February 2016

It’s not often I find a collection of short stories that make me really want to read them, but the description of this collection sounded so intriguing that I just had to try it and I’m pleased NetGalley gave me the opportunity to do so.

These short stories had common themes of relationships (between both same-sex lovers and family, particularly child and parent), discovery and travel – but that’s as far as it went. In terms of characters and experiences each story was vastly different from the one that it followed. As I read these stories in chunks with gaps between each one, I found some stories more engaging and memorable than others. Although I enjoyed reading (most) of them at the time, I realised there aren’t many which I can remember all the details for.

My favourites are ‘The Bigness of the World’, ‘Talking Fowl with my Father’, ‘Upon Completion of Baldness’ and ‘All Boy.’ ‘The Bigness of the World’ saw two young boys looked after by an eccentric nanny who’s told one day to stop coming to the house. I loved that this was told from one of the boy’s perspective and shows their way of thinking and just the attitude of the nanny too. It’s for similar reasons that I really enjoyed the last story in the collection ‘All Boy.’ That too was from a young boy’s point of view and highlights the innocent thoughts children have, and how that is lost. I think these two stories were a very strong start and finish to the collection and in themselves made the collection worth reading.

‘Talking Fowl with my Father’ and ‘Upon the Completion of Baldness’ may sound like they couldn’t be further apart but they both explore the theme of not addressing personal problems and how that can sneak up on you in strange ways. They were fascinating ways to approach the subject and were almost amusing in a way – through sandwiches and grammar.

Whilst not every story in this collection captured my attention as much as I was expecting, nearly every character did. Ostlund crafts some wonderful characters and develops them in incredible ways in such a short amount of pages. However I feel that the complexity of some of the characters would be better explored in novels as they have so much potential. This collection of short stories is something I can imagine on one of my university reading lists as there’s so much that could be said about them, regardless of whether you enjoy them or not you could really explore other people’s situations through these snapshots. 

Even though I have somewhat mixed feelings towards this collection, I think they are worth a read for the characters and beautiful writing style. I feel like I would enjoy her novels more than her short stories but I’m pleased I’ve been introduced to her work.

Rating: 3.5/5



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