Mands's Reviews > City

City by James Roy
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3.5

City by James Roy is the companion novel to his previous book, Town. Set in an unnamed city, the book is made up of a collection of short stories that connect in different ways, some through characters, and others through objects or locations.

I hadn’t heard of the book or author when I received this for review but I was keen to read it as I don’t read many short stories and I enjoy watching different threads be woven together.

The stories are broken into three sets and each set of stories begins with a story named for a bus number, bus 555. I assumed that each set would feature a story about the same people but this wasn’t so, we’re introduced to many new characters and don’t return to the ones we’ve already met.

I enjoyed most of the stories for varying reasons. One of my favourites, Osondi Owendi, features a girl and a guy who meet in a music shop and bond over their love of African music. Another, Terminal, features a letter written from a son to his mother, describing his first time doing drugs and there are hints that his mother is dying. And Three Dates, featuring a couple who meet via speed dating and discuss their home towns.

There were also a couple of stories that stood out because the characters annoyed me. In The Driver, two mates bumble around trying to help out their friend who has gotten himself into a troubling situation; it left me shaking my head at their stupidity but I did appreciate what they were willing to go through to help him out. In Toyota of the Beast, I wanted Vee to stop letting her ex-boyfriend Andy call the shots after he tracks down far away from home. I also would have liked to have known more about her story.

The ones that really stick with me are the bus 555 stories featuring an unnamed narrator. The narrator has been watching a girl at a bus stop and follows her onto the bus. It’s clear he’s been watching her for some time, and while it’s never stated, I assumed the narrator was a guy. He mentions that they’ve met once before and thinks about her skin and wanting to see more of it and lists three ways he could make that happen. It left me with such a creepy feeling and I would have liked to know what happened. I also couldn’t figure out which girl she was or if she was even included in one of the stories, the same goes for the narrator.

I thought the stories would connect in a stronger way with a resolution at the end but they don’t, sometimes the connections are in passing, such as the mention of someone’s name or an object, like a motor bike for sale. This meant I was constantly trying to figure out the connection in each story and I was left with a lot of questions. Perhaps I wasn’t adept at picking up the clues and I wonder how much I missed even though I took notes to keep track of all the names.

The writing was straight up, not overly descriptive and I found this a quick and easy read. I enjoyed the city setting, sometimes picturing Sydney, other times allowing the stories to give me a visual of the setting.

City is an intriguing collection of stories with a great Australia feel and would be perfect for fans of short stories and contemporary Aussie YA.

Thank you to the lovely people at UQP for my review copy.
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