My Rating (****)
Encore by Margaret Lynette Sharp is a collection of 25 beautiful short stories. Most of these stories tend to be very short. This very shortness of the short stories makes it difficult to appreciate them for what they are. However, the very length of the reading makes the reader more aware of what moves below the surface. Each story has its own charm and touches you in a different way. I loved reading almost all of these small pieces. These stories are full of rich and sparkling entertainment, fun, satire, amusement, pathos and excitement which follow each other in an endless manner.
The author gets her artistic effects more by a process of exclusion. The characters retain their naiveté of being human and their independent right to independent existence. Moreover, care is taken to exclude any attempt to judge them or to fit them into idealistic patterning (or crusading roles). The irony that laps around the characters is singularly free of social or moral censure. Readers are not invited to measure them against this or other scale of values. While it is the world of commoners and ordinary folk, the characters possess extraordinary qualities. We have Annie, who holds dynamic notions about herself. She fails to achieve her private goals (which are opposed to the norm of her parents and elder sister). But her failure is an essential process of self-exploration leading to self-knowledge. Likewise, the growth of self-knowledge in Monica in The Meaning of Love is very interesting. No wonder she was pained to say with smile, “Anyway, I’m just glad he’s found someone, someone he really loves…And who knows, maybe…” Similarly, in Unfinished Business, Jennifer and Patrick have been shown to pass through a related process.
In many of the stories, Sharp’s women characters stand for change. Gina, the main protagonist in An Encounter at the Fair, is one of the few women in the book who is seen from the inside. While she is fascinated by Justin, it is Scott she chooses. One of the stories (Just the Shot) portrays a clash of interests. This is a clash between a father and his son. All this is concretely realised in terms of interaction of characters. While father wants his son to achieve greater merits in sports than anything else, son’s primary interest lies in painting, drawing and photography. But there isn’t any understanding between them. It must however be said in fairness that son does his best to please his father, getting his ankle injured in the process. This story has been scripted in a beautiful fashion. A clash of interests can also be seen in My Love Story, though in a different perspective.
Here I have merely indicated a few lines of investigation. What appears more clearly when reading these stories is author’s sympathetic interest in the small, unimportant man and woman, or even the child. This is an interest which never loses touch with the larger perspectives of life and is continually refreshed from the sources of gentle irony.
(I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review)