Property: Stories Between Two Novellas is a collection of ten short stories and two novellas by Lionel Shriver. Each of these stories have a theme of ownership of some type or other.
The first novella is The Standing Chandelier and is the story of Weston and Jillian who met and became friends at university. For a while they were lovers of the ‘friends with benefits’ type, but by their forties were friends who played tennis and talked about the big things in life several times a week. Jillian and Weston may have continued their friendship forever except that Weston met and fell in love with a woman who hated Jillian, who is the type of person who is either loved or hated by other people with no middle ground. Oblivious, Jillian poured her heart and soul into making a chandelier for Weston and his bride as a wedding present.
Domestic Terrorism is a story that will strike fear into every parent’s heart, that of an adult child who will not leave home. Some people (childless people perhaps) might find this story funny, but I was terrified.
Luckily, The Royal Male was much more my style. The story is an amusing romance between a thieving postman and a woman whose letter to an old flame he has intercepted. I also enjoyed Negative Equity, the story of a couple who had fallen out of love but couldn’t afford to sell their home and go their separate ways.
Kilifi Creek is a more thought-provoking story which told of a young American traveller in Kenya, thoughtlessly free-loading her way through life, when she almost drowned. Later, another accident made her realise that eventually she would run out of luck and opportunities.
Vermin made me feel nostalgic for a more carefree time in my own life, when paying the bills, housework and roof leaks didn’t much matter. This story told of a young couple whose bohemian lifestyle was lost after they became home-owners.
The Subletter was the final novella of the collection. Sara, an American, had been living in Ireland for 11 years in a crappy apartment, enmeshed in Irish politics and the rights and wrongs of the Troubles. On an impulse, Sara decided to sublet her apartment and move to Thailand, but was unable to give any of these up when it looked as if her new tenant was taking over Sara’s life in Ireland where she had left off.
Lionel Shriver’s writing is always good, but her work can be bleak and often leaves me feeling uneasy. I enjoyed this collection of short stories and their humour, black or otherwise, the unexpected romances and the evocations of nostalgia.