At first, this anthology of short stories seems an unconnected collection. As the reading progresses, another story emerges, built with the blocks of the individual tales. It is almost, though not quite, a novel.
The encompassing story is that of Paul, the Dark Poet, and tells how he came to be who he is. Written sometimes in first person, from differing points of view, sometimes in third person, sometimes in present and sometimes in past tense, these stories build a slow picture of the influences that have formed Paul and made him what he is. But they also tell how he impacts on those he meets, those he damages along the way.
Style is varied, suiting the nature and demands of the narrative character. The tales are edgy, terse, poetic, elegiac, harsh, moving, and always empathetic, making the reader feel by delving deep under the narrator’s skin.
This is a surprising book that leaves the reader wondering about strangers met in life and variously dismissed, unrecognised, and ignored without ever being understood. The stories, more than anything else, deliver compassion for the human state; the simple fact of being.
Not an easy read, this anthology rewards the reader’s time and attention with that rare quality; a feeling that it is right, inevitable, complete.
[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]