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Sweet Home

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  338 ratings  ·  55 reviews
'Wendy Erskine's first collection, Sweet Home . . . is every bit as good as her early stories in the always astute Stinging Fly magazine promised.' Jon McGregor, New Statesman

A reclusive cult-rock icon ends his days in the street where he was born; a lonely woman is fascinated by her niqab-wearing neighbours; a husband and wife become enmeshed in the lives of the young cou
Paperback, 221 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Stinging Fly Press
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  338 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Gumble's Yard
Now shortlisted for the 2019 Edge Hill prize for short story collections as well as the Republic of Consciousness Prize

The Stinging Fly magazine was established in 1997 “to seek out, publish and promote the very best new Irish and international writing”, with a particular focus on new and emerging writers and on the short story. Its current editor is Sally Rooney – author of the Booker longlisted “Normal People”.

Stinging Fly Press was launched as a small publisher in 2005, with a similar focus t
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019

This debut short story collection by a young Belfast writer is my 10th book from the RofC longlist, which is proving to be a very strong list, mostly of little known writers.

Most of these stories take mundane ordinary lives and situations and take them to or through unexpected crisis points. The writing is vibrant, witty and unsentimental. The exception is "77 Pop Facts You Didn't Know about Gil Courtenay", an entertaining send up of the va
Paul Fulcher
Now shortlisted for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize

The judges citation:
The Stinging Fly Press is making a habit of publishing bold, distinctive debut short-story collections: from Colin Barrett’s Young Skins to Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond. Sweet Home is a fine addition. Erskine has a generous eye and ear, and an excellent sense of place; she wants us to witness the complexities of experience in a world of poverty, isolation and sadness.
The Stinging Fly magazine was established in 1997
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I left the last story for a while as I knew I'd miss this...I already do.
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
These short stories comprise acutely observed portraits of everyday life and survival on the edges of society in modern Belfast.
Dealing with loneliness, loss and disengagement from community, Erskine has a brilliant ear for dialogue and is adept at capturing the dry Irish wit and wry turn of phrase : an arrogant character is summarised as “a fellow who would put a bob on himself both ways”. She makes the mundane fascinating and thoroughly believable – all the characters came alive as real, rela
Jonathan Pool
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ooh these were good. Will try to get some extended thoughts up some time.
The stories in this collection by Wendy Erskine are all set in East Belfast. A working-class area that is overwhelmingly Protestant, East Belfast is known for being the childhood of C.S. Lewis, the place where Van Morrison grew up and birthplace of George Best, the Manchester United player regarded as probably the greatest football (soccer) player of all time. It was the home of countless shipbuilders who worked at Harland and Wolff, the company that dominated world shipbuilding in the 20th cen ...more
Cinzia DuBois
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
I’m sorry, I can see there is some really important social commentary in this collection which I give so much kudos for, but the writing style and I did not get on. Just not my taste.

It’s a very distinctive style, very breezy and naturalistic; but perhaps too breezy for my dyslexic brain. I know that sounds weird, but I actually find it harder to read breezy books than hard ones because I tend to drift off too easily and not pay attention. There wasn’t anything that gripped my attention so I en
Jackie Law
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sweet Home is a collection of ten short stories that prove what powerful tales can be told in this condensed format. All are set in and around contemporary East Belfast. They feature ordinary people as their quiet disappointments and resentments bubble to the surface of their everyday lives. The author captures the quotidian with insight and poignancy along with each character’s yearning for what they perceive to be passing them by. There is a depth of understanding, a recognition that most hurt ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wendy, when is your next book out?!
Highlights: Inakeen, Locksmiths, Last Supper, Lady and Dog, The Soul Has No Skin
Jan 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: roc-2019
(3.5) A fine collection of short stories but not necessarily one I will remember in the long run: it’s missing just something that would make it truly memorable for me. Perhaps I had Milkman and its peculiar, standout narrative voice in my mind while reading about Belfast in what’s essentially a much more traditionally written book, and was therefore slightly disappointed. Some stories were really good (“To All Their Dues," “Sweet Home,” “Arab States: Mind and Narrative”), some quite tedious (“7 ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-rofc, 2019
Sweet Home is Wendy Erskine’s debut short story collection and it is published by Stinging Fly Press.

The Stinging Fly Press imprint was launched in May 2005 with the publication of our first title, Watermark by Sean O’Reilly. Like the magazine, the imprint is particularly interested in promoting the short story.

It is always difficult to know how to approach talking about or rating a short story collection. Nearly every collection I have read has had some stories I thought were wonderful and some
John Braine
Apr 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This book had quite a bit of hype to live up to. It was on my list for ages while hearing endless praise all the time, but for ages it wasn't available in any of my preferred formats (audio or ebook). And then the hardbook appeared in the house one day bought by my wife. And this is the perfect time to sit on a window seat and read some paper books. The hype didn't really interfere too much once I got started. With short stories you can take each one on it's own merit rather than constantly weig ...more
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Sweet Home" is an important collection, because it signals a new twist in social-realism, an invention of style and situations not seen since the Angry Young Men and B.J. Johnson. Combining characters that remind the reader of Ken Loach or Lindsay Anderson with a large and nuanced emotional palette supported by precise dialogues, Erskine manages somewhat to create situations that are paradoxically totally believable in their minute and artificial constructions. Erskine places the décor and the ...more
Katie Mather
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
To me, short stories are one of our most intriguing and disturbing artforms. They shape worlds in only a few pages. The best of them flash silvery sides of a world I'd never noticed before.

The stories in Sweet Home tap into an everyday bleakness I feel like I understand on a deep and emotional level. The lives described are ordinary in their extraordinariness, and Erskine's delight at scraping away the years of wallpaper, nicotine, city grime and slippery pavement algae to find every individual'
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Bursts with life and humour, set in Belfast but with only one mention of the Troubles. One piece is a delightful pop magazine parody - 77 Pop Facts You Didn't Know About Gil Courtney - in which you learn about his life in between lines about his favourite colour and that the first record he ever bought was 'Battle of New Orleans' by Lonnie Donnegan (of course). But this pop star hero is a one off, her characters work in Argos, are hairdressers or builders, and the stories are lively with their o ...more
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ten short stories that focus on working class lives in contemporary Belfast. In my opinion, this is an absolute gem that contributes to the small but hopefully growing voices that are coming from Northern Ireland. While the sociopolitical backdrop is ever there, it does not dilute the individuality and personal clarity of these wonderfully crafted stories.
With generosity and natural humour, as well as that wonderful jarring feeling that lingers after each story, this is an astounding collection.
Adrian McGahan
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best collections of short stories I've read in a while, all the better for being set in Belfast. The characters had strong, authentic, local voices, living real lives. There's an undercurrent of loneliness to some of these stories ('Inakeen' 'lady and dog'), sometimes regret, and the sense that lives had taken a turn from which people hadn't fully recovered, leaving them slightly broken, but that they were just getting on with things, best they could. There are glimpses of the trouble ...more
Beth Lynas
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
4.5 stars

"But then silence is articulate and what's not said is felt not heard. She could see that now."

On their surface, Erskine's stories can seem like they are one-note, mundane or else not very dynamic. But in her stories, there is always a frisson of tension, of panic, disquietude, anxiety, that all of a sudden unsettles the still, placid exterior of their narratives. In fact, it is exactly this undisturbed exterior that makes that frisson of something—be it of existential panic in "Last Su
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hey ho,let’s go...10 stories that read like a punk rock album,everyday people playing the cards they were dealt,dark,funny and insightful,read it twice so far and there’s no throwaway b-sides,the writer is clever enough and generous enough to make you think for yourself,question you’re feelings at the turn of a page,moral compass spinning,play loud!
Joshua Jones
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading these stories felt like a weighted blanket. Comforting and full of warmth. And yet, ablaze with tragedy of Shakespearean eminence. This collection is razor sharp prose with wry humour and charm.
Favourite stories: Sweet Home, 77 Pop Facts You Didn't Know About Gil Courtney
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
The setting for these stories is Protestant Northern Ireland, post-troubles, but it's an environment you'd recognize from any post-industrial environment, even though the collection is set in Belfast -- the kids are glued to the TV, stuff themselves with fast food, grow up to download porn ringtones in cheap cafes or get spray tans, or walk around in a superstore and buy stuff, etc. The "chav" boys become hard men or contractors who bilk their naive middle class customers living on consultancies ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best short story collections I've ever read, just incredible. Funny and sad and compassionate and brilliantly observed.
Sal Kat Wright
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a beautiful collection of stories! Deep and sad, focusing on solitude and the complicarions of family relationships
Garrie Fletcher
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stunning debut collection of short stories that had me gripped from the first sentence to the last. Erskines characters are full of warmth, sadness and humour and live in a world that I recognise. These are real people leading real lives full of loss, hope, desperation and joy. I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book I recommend it
Aug 29, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely pointless book. Really difficult to read as it seems to flit about constantly. The stories are just not entertaining.
Jul 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
Wendy Erskine’s debut, “Sweet Home”, is a collection of ten short stories set in her native city Belfast. The characters of the stories are each quite different. What seems to link them is the recurring sense of disappointment and loneliness of the central characters. The characters are all outsiders of their community albeit each in their own way, they are well rounded, diverse and their complex feelings are expressed to the reader without being explicitly described. It took me a while to get ...more
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