Man Booker winner Anne Enright’s story collection Yesterday’s Weather is a series of moving glimpses into the lives of ordinary men and women struggling with the bonds of love, family, and community in an increasingly disconnected world. It exhibits the arresting images and subversive wit that mark Enright as one of the most thrillingly gifted writers of our time.
Yesterday’s Weather shows us a rapidly changing Ireland, a land of family and tradition, but also, increasingly, of organic radicchio, cruise-ship vacations, and casual betrayals. An artisan farmer seethes at the patronage of a former Catholic-school classmate, now a successful restaurateur; a bride cuckolds her rich husband with an old college friend—a madman who refuses his pills, disappears for weeks on end, and plays the piano like a dream. Still more startling than loss or deception are the ways in which people respond: a wife raging at her husband’s infidelity must weigh the real stakes after his affair takes a tragic turn; confronted with a similar situation, a woman decides to cheat with, rather than against, her man. Sharp, tender, never predictable, their sum is a vibrant tapestry of people struggling to find contentment with one another—and with themselves.
In this overstuffed collection from Booker Prize winner Enright (The Gathering), the gems are overshadowed by the sheer number of stories (there are 31). Enright's talent lies in her ability to tweak an ordinary situation and create something that is at once unique and universal: two wives coming to different conclusions about their husbands' infidelities in Until the Girl Died and The Portable Virgin, an examination of elevator and pregnancy etiquette in Shaft or the permutations of sexual desire in Revenge. Other standouts such as Little Sister and Felix resonate because of their tight focus. In the former, the narrator pieces together her dead sister's life and realizes It was all just bits. I really wanted it to add up to something, but it didn't. In Felix, Enright riffs on Lolita and creates an endearing and repulsive middle-aged woman narrator who has an affair with a neighborhood boy. But too often Enright's characters more often than not female, first-person narrators bleed into one another until their stories become jumbled in the reader's mind, as another unhappy wife or mother laments her situation.