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Sweet Home by Carys Bray : Honest and Dark Stories About Homes Everywhere

8th September, 2016

Sweet Home by Carys Bray

A shopaholic is tempted to buy new babies on sale.  A bereaved mother borrows her neighbour’s baby. A man carves a baby out of ice. A woman builds a gingerbread house and is frowned upon by the parents in the nearby village.

Review :

Sweet Home is a collection of seventeen short stories that explore every day occurrences in different homes in a new light. The problem with reviewing short story collections is that you will not be able to give an impartial rating for the whole book. The style, the plot is different for each story yet you have to rate them all in one go. I wish I could have individually given star ratings to the stories because some of them are more fantastic than the others.

Some of my favourites in the collection:

Two of my favourite stories are The Baby Aisle and The Ice Baby. The Baby Aisle starts off in a mild way and hits you hard with the horror and dark humour involved. The Ice Baby is deeply reminiscent of Gepetto carving Pinocchio. I have done a separate post on these two stories earlier along with excepts. You can read about them – Two Fairy Tale Babies that Lure you to Sweet Home by Carys Bray

Love : Terms and Conditions is a story of self discovery as a mother tries to answer which among her three children is her favourite. I adored this one.

Scaling Never is a story from the perspective of a seven year old who is brought up on Biblical stories. He believes his faith is “at least as big as a toffee bonbon, maybe bigger” and can definitely bring the dead back to life. It is sad and makes you well up towards the end.

The title story, Sweet Home is a  modern take on the Hansel and Gretel fairy-tale. It is about an immigrant woman building a house of sweets in the forest. The story highlights ideas of xenophobia, prejudice and societal barriers that are hurdles to those are different from the majority.

Sweet Home by Carys Bray

Dancing in the Kitchen is perhaps the shortest story. It gives the message of how we selectively delete out and add stories to our memories to cherish them more. There is a mother dancing in her kitchen. In her head she is imagining how a particular scene in the kitchen would appear in a movie or play. I loved how the same scene is recreated with the imaginary camera lens in different perspectives. Few words, yet powerful message.

Everything A Parent Needs To Know has a daughter recollecting her embarrassing memories. The mother on the other hand reminisces about the various parenting manuals she had devoured for help.

In Wooden Mum, Bray shows the thoughts of a mother linked to the way her children play with  a doll house and the wooden family in it.

In Under Covers, an older woman tries to retrieve her bra that has fallen on a hedge thinking of all the things it stands for, from a healthy sex life to the state of marriage, as two giggling teenagers make fun of her.

Just in case (you will get the humour in the title when you read the story) is a story of a mother coming to terms with her child’s death in ways she has invented for herself.

Writing :

I loved Carys Bray’s writing style. I found it to be sparse, less descriptive, yet making alive the scene in each story. And her climaxes are sudden and unexpected that jolt you out of your seat in horror.  There are many inventive similes and phrases scattered throughout the collection as well. I loved the subtle dark humour in some of the stories and the undaunted honesty in the others.

Themes :

This collection of stories boasts of being a perfect mix of realism and fantasy. There are stories that have unrealistic elements, but still feel naturally real. The stories cover motherhood, death, mourning, modification of memories and domestic happiness of marriage. I love how the collection portrays adults as insecure, vulnerable human beings, very much like children inside, but burdened with the responsibility of putting up a deceptive facade of a maturity.

Final Verdict :

I loved reading this short story collection, both the realistic stories and those with a tinge of magical realism. I did not enjoy some of the stories (purely a personal opinion. The writing is still great), but I loved the majority of them. The stories in this book take unexpected turns and will not cease to surprise you at every turn.

Much thanks to Jen Campbell for a copy of the book.

Title : Sweet Home
Author : Carys Bray
Publisher : Salt Publishing
Published : 2012
Language : English
Pages : 156
Rating : 4/5

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Have you read Sweet Home? Or any of the short stories included in the collection? Which are your favourites?

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Sweet Home
This Post Has 19 Comments
  1. Isn’t it so challenging to rate short story collections as a whole? They are almost always mixed in quality. But I find myself rating them based on their best stories, not their worst. This collection sounds intriguing.

  2. This collection has been on my TBR list for a while and your review has reminded me I must get round to reading it soon. I love what you say about her depiction of adults as vulnerable and childlike, and the stories you mention sound intriguing.

  3. I never know how to rate a short story collection, it is one of the hardest things one can possibly do. So I really enjoyed your review. I already want to read this book but the babies and the parenthood put me off. I may have to read this before Issy Bradley.

  4. I’m sitting here thinking that I haven’t read a collection of short stories since I graduated from college. I always seem to migrate to novels instead. Maybe I’ll give this one a try though because you make this collection sound very good 🙂

  5. Sounds like a powerful collection of short stories. I just added it to my TBR. I am looking to read more collections of short stories. I appreciated your thoughts and sharing your favorite stories in the collection. I haven’t reviewed a collection before but I can see how it would be a challenge!

  6. I’ve reviewed several short stories in my blog before and always find it difficult to talk about the book collectively. Thankfully I don’t use starred ratings anymore, so I don’t have to worry about that because it’s even more difficult to give a specific rating to books of short stories! There are always a few that you won’t care about or won’t like at all.
    I don’t think I’ve ever given a short story collection 5 starts either on my blog (when I used starred ratings) or on Goodreads. I don’t know why. I still enjoy many of them but there’s something about that type of writing that prevents me from going all the way to the perfect score. I think I’m just biased toward full-fledged stories and that’s not something I can easily change. Perhaps one day I will find the perfect book of short stories!
    Glad you enjoyed this one. I love the creepy cover and the themes it explore sound right up my alley.

    1. Thanks Naz. yes, It is difficult to rate short story collections because we would always love some and hate same. I would give 5 stars if a collection has more than 90pct stories to my liking. But I have not found any like that. I have a few unfinished stories in the CHimamanda’s collection of short stories. I hope they will not disappoint me and I will be able to rate the collection really high. 🙂

      1. I agree with you both– short story collections are hard to rate. Personally, I find it’s easier to read compilation-style collections where the stories are written by multiple authors. When I’m reading a short story collection from the same author I sometimes find that I’m applying the same lens to all the stories. That’s unjust– they should stand apart. But it’s hard for me to seperate them out in my mind when I’m reading a single book all the way through.

  7. The hardest review I’ve ever written was of a short story collection. They’re so tricky because you want to review the collection as a whole, but also each story individually. There always seems to be so much to say! I love the themes behind this collection and also the mix of fantasy and realism you describe.

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