Length: 160 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Source: NetGalley & Edelweiss
From the publisher:
The elegantly conceived, intimate stories of The House at Belle Fontaine span the better part of the twentieth century and almost every continent, revealing apprehensions, passions, secrets, and tragedies among lovers, spouses, landlords and tenants, and lifelong friends. In her crisp and penetrating prose, Tuck delicately probes at the lives of her characters as they navigate exotic locales and their own hearts: an artist learns that her deceased husband had an affair with their young houseguest; a retired couple strains to hold together their forty-year-old marriage on a ship bound for Antarctica; and a French family flees to Lima in the 1940s with devastating consequences for their daughter’s young nanny.
Here’s what I thought:
I enjoy short story collections and I’d heard a lot about Lily Tuck’s novel News From Paraguay, so I was interested to pick up her latest work, The House at Belle Fontaine. It’s a quick read comprised of 10 stories. Generally I like to read short stories independently of one another, but because of the short length of the stories in the collection, I ended up reading several at each sitting.
Although every story is different, there is a similar tone throughout the book that lends a sameness to the stories, too. Almost every story takes place in a foreign locale–France, Antarctica, Thailand, Peru–and feature characters who have experienced some kind of personal loss or dissatisfaction. There are no successful relationships in any of the stories, no personal triumphs, and although I could appreciate Tuck’s writing I found myself being weighed down by the feeling of ennui that the stories evoked.
I also would have liked at least a couple of the stories to be longer, so that I had a chance to get invested in the characters to a greater extent. My favorites were “Lucky”, “The Riding Teacher”, and “Pérou”, but in each case I finished them feeling unsatisfied by the lack of closure, and each ends with sadness or tragedy. I think I might prefer reading one of Tuck’s longer works, provided there was some hope or growth for the characters.
I enjoyed the writing in The House at Belle Fontaine, but I ultimately found it to be a depressing reading experience and I’m not sure I was the best audience for this book.
Thanks so much to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Atlantic Monthly Press for providing me with a copy of this book.
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