Wednesday 11 May 2016

Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell

From Belfast to London and back again the eleven stories that comprise Caldwell's first collection explore the many facets of growing up - the pain and the heartache, the tenderness and the joy, the fleeting and the formative, 'the drunkenness of things being various'. 
Stories of longing and belonging, they culminate with the heart-wrenching and unforgettable title story.

Multitudes is the beautiful debut story collection from the acclaimed, prize-winning novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell and was published by Faber & Faber on 5 May 2016.

I read quite a few short story collections, but very few make it on to Random Things, for various reasons. I've often found that short stories have left me feeling unfulfilled as a reader, that I've not really understood what the author is trying to say. Sometimes a collection will feature one or two excellent stories whilst the others feel like they've been added as an afterthought, or to pad out the book.

I have had none of these feelings whilst reading, or after I've finished Multitudes. This is a collection of eleven quite beautifully constructed stories that have held me spellbound. Lucy Caldwell takes her reader to Belfast for the majority of her tales and the setting is so realistic, the flavour of the city, pre the Good Friday agreement is startling and so very very well done.

Multitudes is a sort of coming-of-age collection. Each story has its own lead character, they are not linked in any way except for their setting. The stories are arranged by age, with The Ally Ally O starting, right through to the quite mesmerising final tale, Multitudes.

Lucy Caldwell touches on so many difficult issues experienced by young girls as they grow up. The devastation of broken friendships, the yearning of secret crushes and the sometimes terrible decisions that are made because of these. She explores sexuality and differences, and incorporates a theme of determination and survival throughout the book.

Multitudes is gripping and very raw. The stories are often tragic, always smart, they are poignant and captivating.

My thanks to Kate from Faber and Faber who sent my copy for review.

Lucy Caldwell was born in Belfast in 1982. She is the author of three novels and several stage plays and radio dramas. Awards include the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and the Dylan Thomas Prize. She was shortlisted for the 2012 BBC International Short Story Award for 'Escape Routes' and won the Commonwealth Writers' Award (Canada & Europe) in 2014 with 'Killing Time', both of which are collected for the first time in Multitudes.

As part of the Vivid Faces season at the Lyric Theatre Belfast, Caldwell has been commissioned to create a modern resetting of Chekhov's Three Sisters. This new version will have its world premiere at the Lyric in October 2016.

Caldwell's new radio drama 'Dear Baby Mine', about male infertility and adoption, and based on a true story, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in June.

Find out more about Lucy Caldwell and her work at 

Follow her on Twitter @beingvarious


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