For better or for worse.
Publisher: John Murray
First Published: 25th June 2002
Date Reviewed: 19th October 2014
This is Meloy’s first collection of short stories, each confined to a scene or two and centred on emotion and the individual.
Half In Love is a short book that contains some magnificent stories and some average stories which, whilst not being in the same league as the author’s later work, do house that specialness that is unique to her.
Meloy is an expert at characterisation, pulling you into the character’s lives from the first moment; this is exactly what happens in these stories. A handful of pages long, and with Meloy’s writing style remaining as sparse as ever, you don’t expect the sheer amount of ‘pull’ there is to these stories. It’s as though an entire novel has passed before you, the stories being at once so in depth you feel you know everything there is to know about the characters whilst at the same time not being long enough. The characters practically leap off the page and it’s almost as though the lack of details as to who they are – hair colour, build, and so forth – lends the reader a freedom to truly know them. It doesn’t matter who these people are beyond the one specific subject Meloy is concentrating on. You know them.
There are a few stand outs. Four Lean Hounds, CA. 1976 presents the awful moment a man discovers his wife has been unfaithful with his now dead best friend. The way it is revealed to him is both subtle and obvious. It’s an excellent piece. Native Sandstone is pretty average by itself but the meaning in it, of wanting to keep to traditional, the status quo, for no real reason, is something to think on. Ranch Girl shows what happens when you let a bad situation control your life, as does, in a different way, Garrison Junction which is interesting in part because the author goes back to the characters in another tale. And then there’s Aqua Boulevard – quite chilling, really – and The Last Of The White Slaves – which doesn’t focus on exactly what you might think.
There are some stories that seem not to be so thought out, with less meaning to them, and so you do find yourself coming down from the literary high on occasion. That said, doubtless which stories work will differ per reader.
Sporting less tight a theme than the later collection, Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It, you could be forgiven for thinking that Half In Love will not be as good. But if anything it is likely to appeal to more people and could well be said to be better in general.
And given that Half In Love was Meloy’s début, that’s not bad at all.
October 23, 2014, 3:48 pm
I am always on the look out for different short story collections. I haven’t read this author but I think I will have to consider this.