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Laurie Colwins stories are ridiculously well crafted. Each is a lesson in how to write. In class, I often talk to my students about the importance of being able to capture a character in a few details, a couple quick brushstrokes. I dont know if Ive ever read an author with as deft a hand at capturing character as Colwin. In a few phrases, she suggests characters who are whole and complex and resist easy stereotypes. (For example: On his arm was a thin girl whose toast-colored hair was so tenuously arranged that Guido was afraid to shake hands with her (82). Her efficiency is incredible. We get not only the girl in a snap shot but also the way she affects those who meet her, Guido in particular.)Over and over, I was struck by Colwins mastery of craft. Her language was spare and poetic, her characters deep with the passion and affect for which her title prepares us....so why only three stars? Well, for my tastes (and I believe a Goodreads rating is a reflection of personal taste), Colwin is perhaps a little Jamesian. The world of this collection tends to revolve around the wealthy or recently wealthy or recovering wealthy. Its a novel of manners of sorts--a collection of manners, I suppose I should say. Colwin portrays the distance between the characters into her own distanced portraits of them, and for me, sadly, that made it difficult to empathize/connect with them as I felt I ought. When I put down the book, I didnt long to pick it up again. Colwin is a quiet writer in that not a lot of conflict drives these stories aside from failures to connect, and I suppose thats just not quite enough for me. I admired the book, but I didnt love the book. I see this more as a personal failing than a judgment of Colwins art. (I tend to have the same issue with Alice Munro, which shows just how large a fistful of salt one should take with my opinion.)That quibble aside, Colwins skill is staggering, and I imagine returning to some of these stories to remember what the best writing looks like.Favorite stories: The Water Rats, The Girl with the Harlequin Glasses, The Man Who Jumped in Water, Mr. Parker, Wet.

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