There are several excellent stories here – evocative, astute, original – and plenty of interest throughout, but there is, too, an ultimate failure to recoup what is expended on the petty disputes that so many of them rehearse. This is a very fraught book, with a jumpy, hair-trigger tone. The prose is sometimes slipshod. It is hard not to feel driven back by that.
The Living Sea of Waking Dreams
"At the heart of this latest novel from Booker winner Richard Flanagan there is a powerful tale of a family trying to decide whether to prolong the life of a dying relative, but some of the more fantastical elements seem out of kilter..."
— The Scotsman
3.57 out of 5
In Saturday Lunch with the Brownings, Mortimer goes behind the facade of married life – something she understood well from her husband’s infidelities – to look at the violence and betrayal that sit close to love. In the superb title story, the unravelling of a weekend lunch with the children is brutal not just for the father’s violence towards his stepdaughter, but for the fact that it is no longer considered surprising. This dark event is just a weekly episode in the life of the Brownings. Mortimer expertly switches perspectives in this story to give us moments of empathy for each of her characters, however monstrous they might appear.
The people in Mortimer’s stories live and die by the pictures they present to the world. In the hilarious Such a Super Evening she sends up her own image. The Mathiesons are famous writers who have eight apparently perfect children. They make the timid narrator feel inadequate and dissatisfied. However, when they come to dinner the real Mathiesons turn out to be a lot less than perfect and the “super” evening is a disaster. Ouch. None of these stories has dated; they are witty, despairing and sometimes horribly truthful.