Welcome to my stop on the Women and Love blog tour, a huge thank you to Renard Press for inviting me on the tour and providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Renard Press
Publication Date: 23/02/2022
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Short Story Collection | Literary Fiction
CW: gender dysphoria, transphobic language, drug use, mentions of alcoholism, mentions of suicide
‘I couldn’t sleep that night; our conversation was like a trapped bird flying around inside my head. The next morning, I texted to say I wouldn’t be coming back. I lied about having to return to my country to nurse a sick relative. I couldn’t bear to see my story mirrored in his eyes, and to see what we never had. I knew he’d understand.’Renard Press
Women and Love is a thought-provoking collection of seventeen tightly woven tales about the power of love, all its trials and complications, and the shattered lives it can leave in its wake.
The stories explore a huge variety of sorts of love surrounding women in wildly differing settings, and features an unforgettable cast including GPs, burglars, inmates, emigrant cleaners, carers, young professionals, and many more. Navigating heavy themes, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ experiences, including gender dysphoria and searching for a sperm donor, the stories leave the reader burning with indignation, full of empathy and wonder.
As it is February, I’m sure you will see many reviews of romances or books where love is the main theme, however, I don’t think you’ll find a collection of short stories that explores love in a brutal, yet beautiful, way. Not only does Burke celebrate the diversity of love in this collection, not only in the characters depicted but in the way love is shown.
Although this is a collection of short stories all by one author, they read as if they are written by a mix of people as each story had a very unique voice with the hint of an underlying narrative style that ran through each story to make a cohesive collection. Whilst there were similarities among some characters or situations, the stories didn’t feel repetitive and each offered a different view on love and women. Burke highlights the complexities that are found within both concepts, with the father who is slowly coming to terms with their gender identity and the couples who find that love is the source of their unhappiness.
Most of the short stories have very realistic and relatable scenarios for a variety of readers, it is clear that Burke has used her expertise and experience is the psychology field to her advantage when crafting each character. We’re presented with different characters in each short story, however, each character is still well developed in a short amount of pages. You are able to quickly form an opinion and / or an attachment to the characters you’re presented with which is an impressive feat for any author, especially for a debut author too.
One of the aspects that struck me most about this collection was how it seemed to capture the same detailed, yet fleeting, snapshots of life in the way James Joyce did with Dubliners. I really loved that instead of being a collection of short, complete, stories we got to witness a variety of moments of people’s lives and the importance of love within their lives. The fact that these are little windows into people’s lives makes the collection as a whole more powerful, you’re given a whirlwind tour of all the ways that love can manifest itself in people’s lives, and how it can hurt as well as help. It was also great to see that Burke didn’t just cover the ‘conventional’ aspects of love or the struggles women face in society – she doesn’t just look at romantic love and neither does she just look at feminism from a ‘white lens’.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and looking at the subjects of women and love under a modern microscope. Burke sensitively deals with many difficult topics in a way that will leave you with new perspectives and empathy for situations and people you may not have considered or have been presented with before. My personal favourites were: The Luck of Love, The Otherness of People, Looking Out, We’re Not Born Here, The Unchosen, The Thing About Being Human and The Vulnerable Hour.
About the Author
A writer from the west of Ireland, Miriam Burke’s short stories have been widely published in anthologies and journals, including The Manchester Review, Litro Magazine, Fairlight Shorts, The Honest Ulsterman, Bookanista and Writers’ Forum. She has a PhD in Psychology, and before becoming a writer she worked for many years as a Clinical Psychologist in London hospitals and GP practices. Women and Love is her debut collection.