Chris's Reviews > The Shell Collector

The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr
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's review
Apr 26, 2011

really liked it
Read in April, 2011

There’s more fish guts than dialogue here. Not that that’s a bad thing.

But I’m fairly certain you won’t read an issue of Field & Stream, let alone a short story collection, that references the viscera and evisceration of fish half as often as here in Anthony Doerr’s The Shell Collector. Which is merely Exhibit A. He also clearly has a thing for binomial nomenclature.

Nature is definitely this man’s muse. Not unlike Hemingway, I suppose, but less confrontational, less testosterone-fueled.

The prose is elegant, almost traditional—aims for timelessness, methinks. He luxuriates in his third person voice, really lets the subtext swell until it gently overtakes the narrative. The man’s a true short story writer.

Like all collections, some stories outshine others. And some characters are more dimensional than others. The woman in the stirring “Mkondo” comes close to coming across as an African stereotype, were it not for the hint of fable injected.

Reminiscent of Mark Helprin’s collection, A Dove of the East—also a globetrotting collection written in the author’s twenties.


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