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The Pier Falls and Other Stories by Mark Haddon

pier falls

Out today, The Pier Falls is Mark Haddon’s latest book. Although I was cutting it down to the wire, I was able to finish and review the book before leaving for Book Expo America. Hope to see some of you there. Here’s what I thought of the book:

The Pier Falls and Other Stories by Mark Haddon
Published: May 10, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Jen
Find/buy it here: The Pier Falls

I received an advanced copy of this book from netgalley and Doubleday in exchange for an honest review.

The Pier Falls is a collection 9 stories all revolving around the theme of human isolation. Each story is stylistically different but they all tackle some form of isolation and a longing for emotional and physical connection. The title story is about the collapse of a pier on a summer day when the pier is packed with people. Lots of people die and many are saved but the focus is on how connections are formed and broken. This serves as a central theme throughout — the formation and dissolution of human connections. The others stories cut across genre, there are contemporary stories, science fiction stories, and a Victorian style story. All are brilliantly written and emotionally powerful.

There was something oddly compelling about these stories. I say oddly compelling because these stories were so dark and depressing that I had to fight the urge to hurl myself into a bottomless pit. Instead of doing so, I kept on reading. Enjoyment isn’t really a word I could use to describe my experience of reading these stories. Can you really enjoy stories that are so gloomy and where the majority of protagonists either die, age, or simply struggle to form any sort of meaningful connection with others? So, I didn’t particularly enjoy them and in fact several of the stories made not so welcome appearances in my dreams. Yet at the same time, I couldn’t stop reading them. I read the book in a day. The book took hold of me and didn’t let go. The stories will probably continue to stay with me for some time.

How connected are we to the people around us? How strong are the links that bind us to others? Can they hold or are can they be fractured by the slightest event? These are the questions that Haddon raises in his stories. I can’t say he has a very optimistic view of human connection. All the characters are isolated in some form or another whether physical or emotional. In “The Island”, a sort of tragic folk tale, the isolation is both physical and emotional as a Greek princess is abandoned alone on an Island – the abandonment made worse by the fact that it occurs in both a literal and figurative sense.

The collection of stories also includes a prize winner. The Gun that won the O Henry Prize in 2014. In the story, two young boys (around age 10) find a gun and do what most 10 year old boys would probably try to do, go off to try and shoot it. The story isn’t really about what did happen but rather about the potential of what could have happened. You can hear the author read an excerpt of his story here: The Gun.

I do recommend this book for readers who aren’t bothered by dark and depressing content. It’s not that there aren’t some moments of hope but the overall tone is not a happy, light one. The questions raised are interesting and the stories are really well-written and compelling.

Note: Some stories do contain violence (against people and animals) so be forewarned if you are sensitive to that in your books.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find you copy here: The Pier Falls

We want to hear from you! Do you plan on reading this book? Why or why not? Have you read it, or others by Haddon ?What did you think?

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for the review. I hadn’t read about this new book. Read a story clip online. Definitely interested in reading this collection. Loved Curious Incident. Great writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 14, 2016
  2. Nice review. I read this recently, and absolutely loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 15, 2016
    • Thanks! I am glad to hear you liked the book too. I found it very compelling.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 15, 2016

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