Sunday, April 22, 2018


Property: Stories Between Two Novellas by Lionel Shriver
HarperCollins Publishers: 4/24/18
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062697936

Property: Stories Between Two Novellas by Lionel Shriver is a very highly recommended collection of two novellas and ten short stories that focus on property and how ownership of homes and objects can affect the lives of those who own them. This is an excellent collection of well-written, thought provoking, engaging short stories full of insight into human nature. All the characters are complex and multi-dimensional, even in the briefest of stories. Property is an exceptional look at people and their relationship to their possessions.Certainly this will be one of the best short story collections I will have read this year.


The Standing Chandelier: A Novella - Artistically inclined Jillian Frisk has become accustom to the bewildering experience of having other women dislike her. When her long-time best friends Weston gets engaged to Paige, she is expecting their 25 year friendship to endure, but Paige has other plans.
The Self-Seeding Sycamore - A widow of fifty-seven had left the gardening to her husband and now she must deal with what was likely his nemesis, the neighbor's tree that drops thousands of seeds in her garden.
Domestic Terrorism - Thirty-something Liam doesn't seem to find adult life especially compelling and refuses to leave his basement bedroom in his parent's home, much to their chagrin.

The Royal Male - Gordon Bosky, a postal carrier, begins to hoard half of the mail from his route rather than deliver it.

Exchange Rates - A miserly retired professor visits his son in England and complains constantly about the exchange rate of the dollar versus the pound. When he gives his son his pound notes as he leaves, he expects his son to send a check and reimburse him so he can avoid the exchange fees.

Kilifi Creek - On short notice, Liana, a young woman from the USA, imposes on the home of an older couple living in Africa based on knowing friends of friends of friends.

Repossession -  Helen Rutledge buys a two-story semidetached on Lansing Terrace in record time and begins to fix it up.

The ChapStick - Peter's father is supposedly dying, again, and he must fly down to see him, again, only this time the TSA takes umbrage to his "attitude" and his ChapStick.

Negative Equity - A married couple breaks up during the housing crisis, but can't afford to leave or sell their home.

Vermin -  A couple buys a house they loved renting, but ownership and fixing the house up destroys their relationship.

Paradise to Perdition -  Barry Mendelssohn embezzles a huge sum of money, changes his name to Rodrigo Perez, and moves into a tropical resort, but discovers the easy life isn't quite as exciting as he thought..

The Subletter: A Novella - Sara Moseley, a writer living in Belfast, instinctively keeps track of what other people owe. She briefly considers moving to another country, and has young woman set up to sublet her apartment. Before she can move, however, the two are both living in the apartment which begins a passive/aggressive fight over territorial rights and possessions. 

As usual, I have a plethora of quotes from Shriver that express many of my thoughts to such perfection it's hard not to share them all. 
" careless people were with their antipathy, how they threw it around for fun; how these days people indiscriminately sprayed vituperation every which way as if launching a mass acid attack in a crowded public square. Sheer meanness had become a customary form of entertainment."  (The Standing Chandelier)

"She couldn’t speak for the human sphere, but apparently in the botanical world, without the constant intercession of a benevolent higher power, evil triumphed." (The Self-Seeding Sycamore)
"Though Liana imagined herself undemanding, even the easy to please required fresh sheets, which would have to be laundered after her departure, then dried and folded. She would require a towel for swimming, a second for her shower. She would expect dinner, replete with discreet refreshments of her wineglass, strong filtered coffee every morning, and - what cost older people more than a sponger in her early twenties realized - steady conversational energy channeled in her direction for the duration of her stay." (Kilifi Creek)

"Pricks get away with acting like pricks because they’ve always gotten away with acting like pricks, and no one wants to interfere with the natural order of the universe." (The ChapStick) This perfectly captures the attitude of many people, and, to no surprise, especially several of those I encountered on my last bout of flying, the trip that made me declare I was never flying again.

"Apparently the gene for small-mindedness was passed down maternally like the one for hair loss." (The Subletter)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers.

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