Monday, December 5, 2011

The Habit of Widowhood: Review

I had forgotten (if I ever realized it) that The Habit of Widowhood was a collection of short stories. I put it on the challenge TBR list thinking it was a novel about a woman who has the habit of losing her husbands. She's in there...but as one short story among many.

As Robert Barnard mentions in his introduction, short stories are somewhat of a lost art. There are very few magazines that publish the abbreviated form any more and the trend seems to be toward writing novel trilogies and series rather than cyclical short stories. That's a shame because Barnard is a master of the technique.

In this collection, he gives us everything from the humorous to the macabre. We have characters who kill by nature (or out of habit, if you will) and those who seem to just fall into it. We have nervous brides and scheming brides (who are only waiting for the perfect moment to dispatch the happy hubby). There's the village Romeo who has returned from WW I determined to sow all the wild oats his fallen comrades will miss out on--enraging the village husbands in the process. Barnard also gives us a take on Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales. Showing us what the royals got up to at Queen Victoria's Balmoral Castel, as well providing an interesting sequel to Jane Eyre.

A diverting little collection. Very evenly told--there aren't really any duds amongst the bunch--although there are a couple that shine. Three and a half stars.

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