‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce

My rating: 3 stars

Dubliners was my first time experiencing a book by James Joyce. It presents the reader with 15 short stories focusing on specific moments in the lives of some of Dublin’s inhabitants at the beginning of the 20th century. I had high expectations, but unfortunately they were not met.

The majority of the stories felt quite bland and not engaging. There is almost no background about the characters, and the stories usually start at a specific moment in their lives and develop from there. The reader instantly gets access to the characters’ thoughts or actions for a period of time and then the story ends. I also didn’t find the writing style appealing or particularly enjoyable.

However, there were some short stories that stood out positively from the rest of the collection, since I was either enthralled by the events being narrated or appreciated the conclusions drawn from them. One of them is ‘Eveline’. Eveline is a young woman who is struggling to decide whether or not she wants to leave her home country to get married, being thus a reflection on how hard it can be to make decisions. It left me wondering until the very end about what her choice would be.

‘A Little Cloud’, on the other hand, sheds light on how others’ successes can make us question our lives. Little Chandler meets his old friend, Ignatius Gallaher, for dinner. At that moment, his failed literary dreams start to haunt him. The way the story is laid out makes it easy to empathise with Chandler and question his feelings at the same time.

A middle-aged bank cashier, Mr. Duffy, is the main character in ‘A Painful Case’. He spends some time talking to a married woman, until one day he ends their meetings. Interesting thoughts on life and death and the consequences of one’s actions are raised at the end of the tale.

The longest story featured in Dubliners, ‘The Dead’, was also one of my favourites, mainly because of the last occurrences. The story starts with a dinner attended by Gabriel and his wife at his aunts’ house. The most interesting part arises from a song played there. The sharing of an old story by Gabriel’s wife leads to thoughts about love and how some day our identities will just fade away from this world.

Before starting Dubliners, I thought I would read the book quickly, since the majority of the stories are quite short. However, that didn’t happen and I only managed to finish this collection because of the previously mentioned stories, which gave me hope that something amazing was still to come. None of the stories blew me away, but some were good enough for me to consider this an overall okay collection.


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