I stumbled across The Secret Lives of Men whilst browsing in my local library recently, simply looking for an interesting paperback as opposed to the multitude of hard back novels, which are a little cumbersome to lug back and forth on the train to and from work (yes, it could be time to consider an eReader, but I am drawn to the allure of printed texts!). I have to say I was quite impressed with my random choice as this book turned out to be a terrific read and also provided great inspiration on how to write a short story well, given my current study requires me to craft my own.
The Secret Lives of Men is only the second collection of short stories I’ve read, the first being Runaway by Alice Munro, and I admittedly preferred this selection of thirteen tales by Georgia Blain, an accomplished Australian author. Many of the stories are set in Australia and contain distinctly Australian elements which serve to add to their character, whilst not being a hindrance to any non-Australian readers.
Blain provides delightful insight and depth to her characters within the short spans of her narrative, along with delivering sophistication to simple themes and actions. Most, but not all, of the stories in this compilation are told from the perspective of a woman whose life is touched or shaped, for better or worse by a man. With the exception of a few, the men appear less dominant in the storylines although they play a significant role.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found that I was keen to continue reading each tale. A great choice if your reading time is lacking and want to have the benefit of being able to read an entire story in one sitting, or just to be able to immerse yourself in a gratifying overall read.
“In these thirteen short stories, Georgia Blain examines human nature in all its richness: our motivations, our desires and our shortcomings. The men in these tales frequently linger at the edges – their longings and failures exerting a subterranean pull on the women in their lives. In ‘The Secret Lives of Men’, a woman revisits her hometown and learns a long-held secret about her first boyfriend. In ‘The Bad Dog Park’, a man’s devotion to his dog ultimately forces him to confront his true hopes and fears. And in ‘The Other Side of the River’, we watch as a woman makes a snap decision about her life’s future direction, with devastating consequences for her family. Written in Blain’s trademark unadorned yet powerful prose, these stories resonate long after they are finished.”