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Touchy Subjects: Stories

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  744 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
The twenty stories are about some of today's touchiest subjects. Donoghue delves into private dilemmas and contemporary controversies of all kinds, from religion to money, social lies to family secrets, sexual confusion to facial hair. Two recurring themes are animals and all they mean to us, and babies (whether and how to have them). Several stories replay Biblical plots ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published May 7th 2007 by Mariner Books (first published June 2006)
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Sandy Hogarth
Donoghue takes the prickly subjects, often the ones that need words of political correctness, and the painful, embarrassing, shameful subjects and gives us wonderful characters replete with their flaws, hopes and dreams. The first is the story of the woman, returning to Ireland from the US, trying to get pregnant with the help of a (not too big) jar of sperm from her best friend’s husband. Another, (The Cost of Things) has the escalating cost of a couple’s vet’s bills for their cat threatening t ...more
Had this out of the library for a while, dipping into it off and on, hoping I'd maybe get into it. Answer: no. The stories feel totally mundane, non-revelatory. They don't have the punchy power that a short story should have (in my opinion and to my taste). And now there's a book I want more in at the library, and I need to make space on my card. 'bye, Emma Donoghue.
Jun 30, 2012 Amber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely adore Short Story collections by fantastic authors. I've loved Ms. Donoghue's writing since I first picked up a copy of Slammerkin all those years ago and I was thrilled when I stumbled across this little collection.

There are 19 stories tucked into this little gem. Some are better than others, in my opinion, but that made it all the more enjoyable. The characters varied, moving from a high powered business-woman who's willing to do anything it takes to have a child, to a bitter craw
Pixie Dust
Jan 30, 2013 Pixie Dust rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is made up of short stories about ordinary people caught in unexpected situations and how they react to them. Filled with self-deprecating humour, the stories poke innocent fun at the cute and loveable characters who find themselves in helpless circumstances and awkwardly fumble to cope with or escape their predicaments.

For example, in ‘expecting’, a stranger misheard that a woman is pregnant. In that fleeting moment, the woman thinks it is not necessary to correct the perception of so
Jul 26, 2011 amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some of these stories absolutely slew me-- I read them over and over, at home, on the beach, and out loud to friends. Donoghue takes the familiar (romance, domesticity) and reveals the unfamiliar hidden within those everyday situations.

Her characters include heterosexual couples, lesbian and gay couples, single-businesswomen-seeking-sperm, evangelical Christians, and people who just really love dogs; all of these are treated with honest affection, making their stories relatable. Had I known the
Elaine Burnes
Jul 07, 2010 Elaine Burnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hadn’t read any Donoghue, so thought a collection of short stories would be a good introduction and safer than investing in a novel (burned by Sarah Waters, I won’t assume a mainstream writer will necessarily be good).

These are terrific. If there had been more lesbian stories, it would have gotten the full five stars. I was disappointed by that at first, so flipped through and read all the lesbian ones first. Charmed, I went back to read the rest and found no lack of interest. Even the ones wi
Apr 16, 2011 Meghan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
If you liked the movie The Kids are All Right, try this set of short stories about relationships and families by the British lesbian author Emma Donoghue. Divided into categories like birth and death, this collection includes two stories that were so touching and poignant that I almost couldn't stand it: in one, a woman finds herself accidentally browsing in the maternity section of a department store, and, flustered, pretends that she is pregnant when an elderly gentleman congratulates her. In ...more
Dec 18, 2015 Abbey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't love this one as much as her other short story collections but I can see how it could make some readers uncomfortable with the content.
Jul 16, 2012 Loretta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good collection of stories. An easy, quick read, but there is some real power in the characters and relationships captured in these little tales. The stories ranged from what at first struck me as awfully "traditional family" centred stories, with lots of babies (although even those had a few twists), to a section called "desire" which included several queer/GLBT stories which were wonderful. I continue to love Donoghue's writing and will keep reading whatever she puts out.
I'm not quite sure what to make of this collection of short stories.

On one hand, Donoghue has a knack for creating vivid characters. While we only spend a short time with them, all of them feel well fleshed out.

On the other hand, however, I often found myself hitting the end of the story and thinking 'Is this it? What was the point of what I just read?' Many of the shorts seemed more like the opening chapter of a larger novel than a standalone story. I understand that there's a lot of power in
Jill Furedy
Jul 26, 2014 Jill Furedy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection started off strong, for me. The delay in knowing what was happening in that first hotel room (between a woman and her friend's husband) intrigued me. The second story was less intriguing, but the awkardness of the situation (a woman mistakenly identified as pregnant) did make me squirm and want to yell at the main character. The last three stories, the Death section, I found my interest dwindling, but for the middle stories, I mostly came out in favor of Donaghue's voice and stor ...more
Aug 23, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Emma Donoghue is an incredible writer. She wrote one of my favorite books of all time (Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins). She's written other books that I loved, admired, was amazed by, was changed by (Stir-Fry and Room). She's written others that kept me absorbed and fully present in them, even when they did not match (for me) the incredible peaks of her other work (Hood and Astray).

This particular volume of short stories was disappointing. I was well into the book when I accidentally
Jan 16, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my eyes, Emma Donoghue can do very little wrong. This themed collection (babies, domesticity, strangers, desire and death) feels like a chat with a good friend. Donoghue does great dialogue, and her situations are deeply realistic. I can see myself picking this collection up to return to a few of the stories again and again.
Apr 09, 2015 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was torn about this rating. I loved the stories in the first half of the book and was much less enchanted with the second half (except for The Cost of Things, which was great). I skipped a few stories, actually. But still . . . there were enough good ones in here for me to admire the book.
Apr 24, 2014 Tara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this started really strongly with stories under the category of birth. I could particularly relate to "Do they know it's Christmas?" But from there it was a disappointing anti-climax. While I understand the flow of ending with death stories, none were particularly poignant so it was a flat method with which to finish the collection.

The very strong homosexual content had me googling the author... All I really wanted was to be immersed in a series of fictional short stories for 10 minut
Dec 16, 2012 Just rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emma Donoghue's Touchy Subjects found its way on ipad accidentally. Initially, I was searching for her popular novel, Room, and in my quest stumbled upon this compilation of short stories. It is written touching exactly on what you might consider touchy subjects divided up in to five sections: babies, domesticity, strangers, desire and death. Some of these topics make people skin literally shutter, itch, and crawl. Emma explores a world that is so personal that you find it almost intriguing grab ...more
A collection of short stories from Emma Donoghue that I enjoyed. The nineteen stories are divided into five segments: Babies, Domesticity, Strangers, Desire and Death. Babies get the lions share of the proceedings, with six stories, followed by Death with four. My favorite segment, given my sometimes-morbidity, was Death. I enjoyed all stories within it, with Necessary Noise, a story of two young sisters faced with the prospect of their younger brother's overdose, being my favorite.

My absolute
Ruth Hastings
Feb 13, 2014 Ruth Hastings rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
NOT for RS!

I was on the lookout for an audiobook to listen to on my way to and from work and spotted this one. I grabbed it as I loved Room...wouldn't normally chose short stories.

I thought the first story was hilarious, I gasped, laughed, my toes curled, I cringed.

Can't say the same about all the stories, some didn't grab my attention as much as others, but I loved the diversity and the subjects it covered!

Great idea for a book, and would make a great book club discussion...unfortunately def
Sudha Murali
Apr 29, 2013 Sudha Murali rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Frankly, I did not get this book at all. It is a collection of short stories - and pointless ones at that.

I like that the author was able to write stories around subjects that one wouldn't even count as a subject - and therein lies the problem. There was some humor and the stories were poignant in some places but after finishing every story - EVERY story - I kept coming back to the same question - SO WHAT ????

The ending to every story was un-fulfilling - I'm not asking for a big bang or a twist
Jun 20, 2014 Jean rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I took this out of the library because it was Emma Donoghue. I really wanted to read her latest "Frog Music," which was unavailable. Some of the short stories were really good, but most I found to be just OK. I think I may just bite the bullet and take out "Slammerkin," the historical novel that made her famous.
Oct 01, 2012 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been seduced! Emma Donoghue won me over on the short story issue. Usually don't like them - really liked these. It probably helped that they were arranged by theme, so the first several related to one other at least that much. But really it was the way she wrote them and the quirky angles she chose on common experiences such as pregnancy, parenting, encounters with strangers. Not to mention the range of her imagination. Also good that it was a whole book of them, as my basic short story pro ...more
Mar 02, 2016 Des rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book for mature audience. I was able to appreciate each stories as I have known such stories does exist in real life but frankly, it is only now after reading this book that I have taken a different look at such touchy subjects.
I read the short story, Expecting, many years ago and it stayed with me. It catches a very human moment, beautifully, and the other short stories in this collection follow suit. Donoghue has an incredible knack for capturing moments where one life touches another and the nuances that humanise those moments. I loved these stories.
Robbie Sellars
Apr 20, 2016 Robbie Sellars rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy Emma's writing, but didn't warm to any of the characters in her stories. In a short story where flaws are emphasised, I didn't find myself to care much about their outcomes. Lovely writing though - all up I'd say 3.5 stars.
This is a 3.5 from me.

I like to inhabit the worlds that Donoghue creates in her stories. You generally know how the stories will wind up fairly early on, but that is not the point. What is far more interesting are the set-ups for each little world. Writing this a month and a half after reading the book, I would say the stories that really stick out in my head are "The Man Who Wrote on Beaches," "The Sanctuary of Hands," and "Speaking in Tongues."

In fact, I think "Speaking in Tongues" may be the
Full of interesting, engaging stories about the small, private struggles of ordinary individuals, Touchy Subjects is most successful in exploring human frailty and the self-doubt and constant revaluation we all go through. But this impact is lessened by the thematic arrangement of the stories into categories – Birth through Death. The strongest stories are upfront and I was rather disappointed that the entirely of the Desire section explores homosexuality to the exclusion of all other themes tha ...more
Laura C
Jun 23, 2015 Laura C rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The first story was really good. The second was good. A rapid decline after that. Only read just over half of the book.
Jan 03, 2015 Charlie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
New author on the scene; nice collection of short stories seen from a youthful perspective. I enjoyed them all.
Esther Bos
A book of short stories. Some are very good, some are just so-so. I tired of them before reaching the end of the book.
Sharon Archer
Jun 30, 2014 Sharon Archer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really don't care for short stories...but these were mostly very good and some were downright amusing.
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Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of ...more
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