Read of the Week: Children’s Children by Jan Carson

This week our Reader Leader Lizzie has chosen Children’s Children, a collection of short stories by Belfast-based writer Jan Carson.

“Everything was neat, everything was useful; your father and I were the only deviations in an otherwise faultless space.”

Floater, Children’s Children

This collection of short stories was a find I will be forever grateful for. Desperate for some ‘local’ stories, I was given this collection by a close friend. Children’s Children by Jan Carson is a collection of tales looking at the complex and chaotic relationships and relations between different formations of ‘family’.

I was immediately taken with the way the sense of place was so strong in the pages. Northern Ireland looms out as a darkly magical place where there is at the same time an everyday monotonousness about the lives of the characters. I particularly loved We’ve got each other and that’s a lot and Swept. The first is a about a family putting their son up for fake adoption to fund a move to Australia, humorous tale with a dark undertone. The second is a tale about a recently retired husband’s act of defiance. Both are funny but also slightly heartbreaking as the family connections start to fall apart.

“Everything has changed. We are outlaws now. Mammy has started smoking tight little roll up cigarettes, which she dangles through the gap in the car window. I am getting fat from all this sitting around, and also the sandwiches. Dad is turning into an American.”

We’ve got each other and that’s a lot, Children’s Children

They are uncomfortably funny, with a dryness, which at times seeps off the page. The stories have moments where you will instantly laugh but almost regret it and ponder at the gently disturbing ideas and issues Carson deals with. From a husband who has found his calling as a human statue to a floating child to a handy guide for what to do with that awkward box room. The tales intertwine heartbreak, fragility and hope whilst looking at generational influences and the legacy we leave or are a part of.

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