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Touchy Subjects: Stories

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  915 Ratings  ·  131 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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Rating details
Sort: Default
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.
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
Some fair, some excellent, a few really moving
a collection of short stories by the inimitable ED
Elaine Burnes
Jul 07, 2010 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
Pixie Dust
Jan 30, 2013 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
Jun 28, 2012 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
Apr 06, 2011 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 Irish 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 the other, a w ...more
Corinne Wasilewski
This is my first time reading Emma Donoghue. I have no burning desire to seek out more of her work. None of these short stories engaged me in any significant way. The early stories were particularly lackluster. In a month I won't recall a single one. Given the richness of the subject matter, it's unfortunate the author didn't do more than "touch" the surface. She comes up with some nice metaphors, though.
Jul 26, 2011 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
Mar 20, 2012 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.
Jan 14, 2014 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 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.
Dec 17, 2015 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.
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq, short-stories
Just about the perfect short story collection.
Angie Fehl
In this odd little short story collection, Emma Donoghue breaks up her tales into five categories of general life: Babies, Domesticity, Strangers, Desire and Death. A rundown of of the stories:


"Touchy Subjects" (title story) -- a man agrees to be the sperm donor to his wife's best friend. Story gets into general discussion of fertility struggles of women

"Expecting" -- a woman lies about being pregnant, the lie gets out of hand

"The Man Who Wrote On Beaches" -- a man turns 43 and finds relig
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fourth book I read by Emma Donoghue (following The Sealed Letter and Frog Music, which I both liked, and Room, which I didn't), and the first collection of stories. I found the overall level of the stories very high - often in a collection, there is quite a difference between the ones you like and the ones you don't, but though I had my favourites, I found all had their strong points.

Donoghue divided the book in five parts: babies, domesticity, strangers, desire, and death. Each par
As I've said before I'm not a great fan of short stories but yet again I find myself giving them another go. I think my problem with them is because so many don't seem to conclude properly - not to me anyhow. One or two of these were like that, getting a snippet of someone elses life & just as you're getting to know the character...the end!

Anyhow, some tales I liked & some I didn't like quite as much - at least there were none I hated or didn't understand! "Do they know it's Christmas? a
Kerstin Gunia
Sep 13, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
To be honest I did not read every story, chose a few under each heading and kept hoping that I would eventually find something of substance. Yes, they are well written but I cannot overlook the vulgarity and profanity. It's lazy to assume that everyone speaks this way. These stories in no way reflect any of my values, instead they mirrored back so much of what is going wrong in society. The self absorbed masses, the propaganda of "if it makes you happy then it must be right", characters that hav ...more
Yvette Adams
Just some simple little stories about some everyday touchy subjects. Stories were collected into themes - babies, domesticity, strangers, desire and death. None of the stories were particularly plot-rich, and most stories didn't have much in terms of an ending, but she just writes beautifully. There were several stories about lesbians and since the author is gay it would have been odd for all the stories to be hetero. This was an easy book to read on a cruise.
Meh. Pleasant enough read but not interesting enough subject matter to make this a good book. I did really like the story about the feminist cooperative, but others, like the gross predatory age gap erotica and the vaguely racist one where Donoghue tried to write from the perspective of a black man getting his house painted, were just straight up abysmal.
Michael Reffold
Hard to believe this is from the same writer as Room - most of these stories are pretty poor, with uninteresting characters and events and really abrupt endings. There are a few in the collection with a bit more to offer, especially in the section called Desire, but nothing that really engaged me.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emma Donoghue does a delightful job spinning tales that touch on difficult subjects, while giving the reader a great sense of the main characters' desires and fears. Truly believable characters, situations and reactions. Humor, tension and a great feeling of place.
I felt it started out stronger than it ended. Wasn't really interested in the last few stories. In general, enjoyed this collection of short stories though. Have never really read many of these types of books in the past. Will have to add more to my TBR list.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, audio
A pleasant collection of short stories. As with any collection like this, some were better than others, but overall, I enjoyed it. I would definitely read more by this author.
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
Aug 08, 2015 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
Dec 16, 2012 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
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 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
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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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