Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Down to a Sunless Sea...random thoughts

Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese.

Hmmmm. I really don't know where to begin with this one, as I just can't seem to get my thoughts into any sensible order here. If this collection of short stories could be said to have a theme, it would have to be individual pain and struggle. Each story introduces us into the mind of a troubled character, a person battling their own personal demons in one way or another. And yet though there is this sort of thread of commonality running through the stories, they really form quite an eclectic mix. I'm sure it can be said of nearly any short story collection, that some stories will speak more to an individual reader than others. But for me, that seemed exceedingly true of this collection.

A couple of stories, "Down to a Sunless Sea" and "For a While, Here, In this Moment," did very little for me. They almost made me wonder if I was simply missing something. And honestly, that may be the case. Or it may be that I'm simply the wrong reader for those particular stories.

But then there were stories that I loved. When I read "Alabaster," I was truly grateful that I didn't give up on this collection. A little boy finally talks to an old woman who often sits on a bench along the street where he plays. The tattooed number on her wrist tells the reader what the child in his innocence doesn't understand. I also enjoyed "Little Errands," which if you've ever seen OCD in action, you'll understand the veracity of this story. And another I particularly enjoyed was "Billy's Mirrored Walls," in which we again see a child's innocence played against an adult's pain, though not nearly as intensely as in "Alabaster."

The other story that made a real impression on me was "I'll Make It, I Think." As the story begins we meet a boy with CP, and one can't help but ache for him and the difficulties he must face just living his life. But I have to say that by the end of the story, I was left deeply unsettled...I couldn't help but feel I was witnessing the making of a rapist or a serial killer. Maybe that was the intent. Or maybe I've just watched too many true crime dramas. Oh, and the kid from "Mortise and Tenon"...yeah, I'm a little worried about his future as well.

Please don't ask me to sum up my feelings of this book overall, because honestly, I just can't quite get a handle on it. But if you haven't read it yourself, I've got two suggestions: a.) read some of the reviews below, and/or b.) leave me a comment saying you'd like to try the book yourself. (If more than one person would like it, I'll do the thing later this week.)


Other opinions:

Trish at Trish's Reading Nook
Bookfool at Bookfoolery and Babble
Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza
Melody at Melody's Reading Corner
Steve at J.Kaye's Book Blog

If you've reviewed this, please feel free to leave a link in the comments and I'll add it here. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Steve reviewed this book a few months back and so I really understand your feelings. From talking to him, it's a very dark read. He felt very unsure at the beginning, but ended up loving it. He felt it was powerful.

Trish said...

I absolutely understand what you mean about not being able to get a firm grasp on your feelings. Even three months after finishing this one I'm still not quite sure how I feel. Glad you stuck around for "Alabaster," though--one of my favorites in the volume.

Debi said...

Thanks--I added Steve's review link. I agree with him...pretty dark read. And I really think it's one that will stick with me, at least while I spend time continuing to process it.

Sounds like we reacted to this one pretty much exactly the same. I honestly can't seem to stick a label on this one, or even on my own feelings about it.

Nymeth said...

I suspect this might not be for me, but I'm glad some of the stories at least were worthwhile reads for you.

Anonymous said...

I love your reviews! You throw so much of yourself into them. I enjoy reading your blog. :)

kreed said...

I am going to have to quit reading your TBR pile is already too big and I alwys have to add a book or two to my list when I see what you are reading!

Thanks for the nice post about was time but still sad, of course.

Melody said...

This book is definitely not an easy read IMO... most stories are dark and too depressing, but I've to say my favourite among all has to be Alabaster. The exchange between the boy and the woman is just... unforgettable.

Scrap girl said...

I don't really like short story compilations, so I will probably not try this one, but fab review. I know what you mean when you finish a book and your just not sure whether you like it or not. It really throws you.