Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dream City by Brendan Short

Remember Big Little Books? I had a few as a kid when they were probably on their last legs but there was something about them I loved. The heft of this small, almost square book and the stories inside appealed to me. They also appeal to Michael Halligan, who becomes obsessed with them, believing they are the key to undoing his life's unhappiness in Short's promising debut novel.

We meet Michael as a five year old and stay with him until he's reaches old age though in many respects, little changes. Michael remains obsessed with the Big Little Books and his strange desire to own every one ever made, including the elusive Trouble in the City of Dreams. The novel is peopled by some interesting characters, including Michael's brutal father and lonely mother and captures parts of the 20th century quite well. Thing is, it's sort of odd. I didn't love it, it didn't wow me; in fact, about a third of the way through the book, I thought about putting it down. It's not a knockout of a book in terms of style or craft nor is it terribly challenging but Short made me want to keep turning the pages and I'm glad I stayed with it. Now that he's gotten that painful first novel out of the way, I'll be interested to read what's next from him.

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