Property

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Member Reviews

Looking for a book to dip in and out of, rather than devote whole sunny afternoons to? This collection of short stories and novellas might be the answer. If you want fast-paced action and loathe long passages of description, it’s probably not for you. If you enjoy wry humour, detailed characterisation and stories that you’re still pondering about hours later, it’s well worth a look.
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My first introduction to Lionel Shriver was in an AS-level English class, where the theme of our reading was Nature vs. Nurture. We Need to Talk About Kevin became a focal point of the whole year as it seemed to withstand the curse of assigned reading by actually fascinating everyone. That book introduced me to the power of Shriver’s writing and especially to her ability to put the uncomfortable in the spotlight and force everyone to look at it. So of course I jumped at the opportunity to read Property: A Collection when I first saw it. Thanks to HarperCollins, The Borough Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The title of this collection is perfect, because all the stories in Property come down to ownership. Who owns what and how does that change and define us. But the stories are not just about physical property, they are also about how we own ourselves and others. There is a self-contentedness in many of Shriver’s younger characters that drive others wild. Why are you content with what you have and who you are, take some ownership of your actions, acknowledge the effect you’re having on others! (These are just some of things I wanted to shout at a few of Shriver’s characters.) Shriver has been a difficult writer for me to engage with ever since her column in the Spectator in which she lambasted the push for diversity in publishing and pushed back against “PC censorship”. That, in my opinion, narrow view contrasts sharply with the emotional intelligence of her writing, in which she articulates so clearly the topics most of us avoid. Perhaps this is why she chose to focus on the “PC culture”, but whether you agree with her or not, there is no denying that Property is a very engaging read.

The highlight of Property is the opening story, more of a novella really, ‘The Standing Chandelier’, which shows the development of a decades-long friendship between the artistic, if a bit airy-fairy, Jillian and her ex-lover Baba, who is in the process of getting settled. Shriver moves between their points of view and it is almost heartbreaking how clear it becomes that their close relationship is untenable. We can’t own the other, no matter how much of ourselves we give. Another highlight, of a different kind, is the story ‘Domestic Terrorism’, in with a 32-year old son, Liam, simply refuses to own his own life. When his parents finally kick him out the story almost descends into a farce, but Shriver’s sharp writing keeps it on the knife’s edge, bringing in political commentary on the refugee crisis and millennials (which you can read whichever way you want) as well as a close look at how family interacts. ‘Vermin’ is another favourite of mine, in which the sheer fact of house ownership drastically changes the story’s characters. Imagery-wise, this is one of the most beautiful stories in the collection for me. Not all stories in Property are equally effective. Both ‘From Paradise to Perdition’ and ‘The ChapStick’, for example, feel preachy, but in completely different ways. It feels like Shriver has an ax to grind, but with what or who exactly isn’t entirely clear.

There is a calmness to Shriver’s prose that I find myself enjoying. She is the kind of storyteller who knows exactly how ridiculous what she is describing is, but she never ruins the joke by laughing herself. Many of her stories are concerned with big emotional moments in people’s lives, yet Shriver avoids the melodrama that sometimes suffuses such stories. The only time she fails to do so is when she is trying to make a point, like mentioned above. That is when the stories lose some of their strength for me, when they become vehicles for something other than themselves. However, in general there is a clarity there that allows her to get very close to her characters’ emotions without letting them overwhelm the story. There are many laugh out loud moments in Property and many of Shriver's characters are unlikable, yet it is compelling reading nonetheless.

Shriver is a great writer and the stories in Property are a great analysis of just how tied down we are by what we own,  whether it is an object, a relationship or even just a feeling. Even if Shriver's personal beliefs sometimes bleed into the stories, they remain mostly fascinating.
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Property is a collection of short stories and novellas on the theme of property.  Each story though is unique and written in the author's incomparable style.  A worthy addition to her collection of literary works.
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I’m sorry to say this collection of short stories is not for me. Having started several and given up, I decided to abandon it. Usually I enjoy a good short story but I just couldn’t get hooked on this collection.
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A masterclass in the short story genre. Intelligent, stimulating and beautifully constructed stories all connected by the theme of property in its broadest sense come together to form the perfect collection. Read them all in one go or dip in and out - either way you won’t be disappointed.
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A superb collection that entertains and challenges all in one pretty package.

It's an interesting thought - how does the owning of property affect us?  Here Shriver takes us through a series of short (and some longish) stories that examine the question from multiple angles.  It's irrelevant whether any answers are forthcoming, as we are, of course, all affected in different ways by external influences. What matters is that we consider the question.

What matters more, of course, is how we engage with our writer and her characters.  I can't help but hear Shriver's laconic tones as she speaks - her voice is distinct, sharp and wry, but her love of human nature and of writing about it shines though.  Clever, witty, dry and loving by turns, this is a collection that you will turn to again and again.
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Two novellas and ten short stories by Lionel Shriver which are all concerned with property or possessions
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I have read everything that Lionel Shriver has published so was very excited to get a copy of Property from NetGalley. 

I wasn't disappointed! I am not much of a short story fan, but in Shriver's hands the short story genre become something special. 

Thought-provoking and fascinating, these stayed with me long after I finished reading them. Would definitely recommend.
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An interesting collection of short stories and novellas. I'm never quite sure about some of the author's use of idiomatic English particularly in London, but there were some interesting thoughts on property and relationships here. My favourite was the royal male, a comic story which was just the right length and I also enjoyed the dissection of a friendship in the standing chandelier
 Thank you to netgalley and Harper Collins for a copy of this book
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I'll admit I didn't expect to fully enjoy this collection of short stories – something about it made me feel as if it would be too worthy, and its length too wordy.  Some of that persisted with the opening novella, an interesting short story of 30pp padded out to 80pp, with two insecure women and the man in between them.  But from then on I was certainly hooked – generally the stories are great fun, with a pleasing lightness of touch.  The second piece, as well as 'Negative Equity' and 'The Royal Male', is definitely on the fun side, even if very few people will think the ending to the first a realistic one.  Some of the tales have very blunt conclusions ('Kilifi Creek' certainly, but also the modern ghost story of 'Repossession').

Part of the worthiness I think is because I still don't know at what stage the intention became to have a whole book of tales regarding property ownership – was it before any were written, a handful, or most?  But the book is a lot wider in reach than I expected; one above takes us to Africa, and we also get a closing novella concerning a cuckoo in Northern Ireland, which is fine except for the irony of having two American authoresses concerned with capturing Ulster on the page, as written by an American authoress concerned with capturing near-recent-history Ulster on the page.  'The Chap-Stick' is just as much about airport security as a man with power of attorney over his dying father, and we learn the truth about "boat drinks" as the cinema once called them.  But that breadth still allows for the theme to be strictly stuck to – we see how people change with home ownership, especially when raccoons are around, and you have to grin despite the sadness of an adult son reacting to the cost of living, and the relationship his father has with money.  Finally, the book shows us two very slappable characters – one, the aforementioned cuckoo, and the son in 'Domestic Terrorism', a fine story if one made awkward by the mother clearly having the right idea.

Ultimately, this book really did work, despite my initial reservations (and my being nowhere near becoming a home-owner).  It struggles to travel a little, when a lot of social and cultural reference is buried in mentions of American school- and place-names, but elsewhere this is definitely relatable.  And definitely entertaining – it's a strong contender for collection of the year.  Four and a half stars.
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12 great short stories, each one different but each one gives so much pleasure to the reader.  A very enjoyable read, each story is easy to complete the read in one sitting.  A very satisfying book and she is such a great author.  Recommended for everyone.
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I love this author’s work and I love short stories. This is a brilliant collection of short stories and a Novello. Really nice to be able to dip in and out of. I’m on holiday and it’s perfect. 
5/5 on goodreads.
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A nice quick read.  Not my typical style of story - I prefer novels.  But the stories were interesting and fast paced.  Did a good job of exploring what "property" means to different people.
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# Property # Netgalley 
Although a very interesting book, and very different to what I normally read. I actually can not say I found it intriguing. For those that like this sort of book I would imagine it would be a very very good book. As I said I found it intriguing. And I also learns a lot. Especially regarding property and why people like one sort and others would not look at.. what is. A surprise to one person is net necessary a surprise for the other one.
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I really enjoyed this - I was intrigued by the premise and found the stories entertaining and thought-provoking. They’re beautifully written and minutely observed with engaging characters and believable situations. With any collection of stories some are bound to appeal more than others. My firm favourite was Domestic Terrorism but it’s a good book to dip into and I would definitely recommend.
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I'm a long-time fan of Lionel Shriver, even after the car crash that was her latest novel and her recent ridiculous comments on diverse fiction, and I've read her entire backlist. Because of this, many of the themes of her first short story collection were relatively familiar to me; money (The Mandibles, So Much for That), petty familial grudges and personal space (A Perfectly Good Family), the Northern Irish Troubles (Ordinary Decent Criminals), journalism in conflict zones (The New Republic), disappointing children (We Need to Talk About Kevin) midlife crises (The Post-Birthday World), whether it's better to want for nothing or to be constantly 'hungry' (Big Brother), whether visible success is really valuable or whether we should focus on the creative process itself (Checker and the Derailleurs, Double Fault). Nevertheless, this collection is still well worth reading, if only for its opening novella, 'The Standing Chandelier'. Previously published as a stand-alone, this punches well above its weight in its dissection of the fraught relationship between single Jillian, her long-term best friend and tennis partner, Weston, and Weston's girlfriend, Paige. Starting with an analysis of why certain people take an instant dislike to others, 'The Standing Chandelier' has all its characters second-guessing their own behaviour; it's both tortuous and unforgettable, and easily five stars.

After that story, which balances cynicism and poignancy perfectly, the rest of the collection would never have been able to measure up, but there are still other very good stories here. 'Domestic Terrorism' shows off Shriver's bias against millennials, but while this is a bit of an irritating riff in some of the other stories, this one takes it so far that it becomes a fabulous satire. An ageing couple can't get rid of their layabout, thirty-two year old son, but when they decide to try 'tough love' and kick him out of their house, he becomes a protest symbol. 'Exchange Rates' also focuses on parents and children, but is less money-orientated.  By the end of the collection, these themes can become a little repetitive - 'Paradise to Perdition' is pretty weak, and the second novella in this collection, 'The Subletter', is not nearly as good as 'The Standing Chandelier', and repeats a number of observations from Shriver's much older Northern Irish novel, Ordinary Decent Criminals (though as nobody seems to have read this, it's hard to blame Shriver for airing these thoughts again). Two sweeter stories, 'The Self-Seeding Sycamore' and 'Negative Equity', focus on romance found or rediscovered through force of circumstance. Finally, 'Kilifi Creek' was another stand-out for me, partly because it's just so different from everything else here; picking up on the fragility of existence and the randomness of death, it reminded me of Maggie O'Farrell's I Am, I Am, I Am.

In short: I might hate Shriver's recent literary pronouncements, but I still rate her as a writer.
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A wonderful collection of 10!short stories and 2 novellas all set among the theme of property in every sense of the word, from actual bricks and mortar to personal belongings.

As a lover of short stories, these kept me hooked, interesting characters, and intriguing story lines. Each story was as good as the last. Very clever and well written.

5/5
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This is a collection of stories with a common theme - property  - by a very accomplished author.

Whether the property concerned is a home or an item, each story provides plenty of food for though, a touch of humour and draws empathy from the most unsuspecting of readers.

This is a series of fresh and stimulating tales; all written to a high standard and most of them could be experienced by any of us. I found myself quite enthralled and quite fascinated by the diversity of this anthology. Whilst I haven't come across this author previously, I wouldn't shy away from reading her work again. Lionel Shriver is very observant and the result is a memorable read, which I'm happy to give 4*.

My thanks to publisher Harper Collins for my copy via NetGalley. This is my honest, original and unbiased review.
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There are times where a short story is what you need. When you want to digest a whole story without having to spend the whole day (or week) reading to get to the conclusion. So you could say I am a temperamental short story fan.  As with other tales from this author the characters and storylines are well defined and the words a joy to read. I would definitely recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys reading. Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for a digital copy in return for an honest review.
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I very rarely read short stories and have such a marmite reaction to Shriver’s novels (sometimes I adore her, others not so much - I am, however, always in awe) that I wanted to read these. 
The Standing Chandelier, the first in the book - and a novella rather than a short - is a poignant examination of how the dynamics of friendship change as other relationships become more dominant, how the re-examination, and purging, of our previous judgements and what we have found comfortable can become a savage exercise of self-protection. I also really enjoyed Domestic Terrorism, as a parent to adult (and thankfully, proudly independent) children I loved this examination of modern-day parenting and how its possible, and easy, to become completely powerless in the face of our own offspring; that the standards of behaviour we would expect, and enforce, in others can be hard to maintain in adult children.
Property demonstrates, as ever, that Shriver’s writing is taut, crisp and twisty with each story leaving me admiring her incisive skill and her insight into the reality of the human condition. Sometimes unnerving, sometimes a little bleak but razor-sharp. Quite remarkable.
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