The Pier Falls (Book Review)

Written by: Mark Haddon, 2016

Published in the UK by: Jonathan Cape/Penguin Random House

Pages: 347

From the historical disaster account of the titular tale to quasi-supernatural psychological horror (“Wodwo”) via tragic almost-romances (“Bunny”, “The Weir”), this selection of nine short stories from the pen of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time scribe Mark Haddon must be commended for the astounding diversity of their perspectives and authorial voices – even if they don’t necessarily sit well alongside one another in this recent hardback collection from Jonathan Cape.

As well as his accomplished range of genres, Haddon’s command of the English language is impressively elegant and oft nigh-poetic. However, admiration for his word use does not excuse the curious direction some of his plots take. All-too-often intriguing concepts peter-out into wishy-washy disappointments (“The Island” and “Breathe” collapse into dream-dominated confusions) which – in my opinion – fall short of their potential for delivering a potent sting in their tails.

“Wodwo”, perhaps the most gripping and odd of all the vignettes, builds up and up and then… just finishes.  Nostalgic childhood drama “The Gun” favours a quiet realism over narrative excitement, while Alien-alike science-fiction mission “The Woodpecker and the Wolf” is a languid, overlong and unengaging slog with too many characters I cared too little for.

Don’t mistake my critique for out-and-out dislike, there is promise in The Pier Falls, even greatness (a number of the stories, prior to being anthologised, were awarded pretty impressive honours), but it is intermittent.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

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