Books Magazine

Short Stories Challenge – The Oversoul by Graham Joyce from the Collection Tales For A Dark Evening

By Bibliobeth @bibliobeth1

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What’s The Oversoul all about?:

The Oversoul is about an eighteen year old boy called Frank who spends most of his time smoking with his friend at the quarry pond until his friend leaves to make a new life in London. Frank becomes infatuated with a young mother he sees with her children at the pond and slowly starts to discover who he really is.

What did I think?:

After the beauty of Graham Joyce’s award winning story, Leningrad Nights in this collection, every story following it has been somewhat of a disappointment to me, this one unfortunately more than the others. Our narrator is eighteen year old Frank who hasn’t really figured out what he wants to do with his life yet. He spends most of his days down at the quarry smoking with his best friend Shadrack. The story begins promisingly enough when Frank tells us about some strange blue-green algae (possibly hazardous to your health) that lives in the quarry water and that one day he felt something rise up inside him that had come directly from the water. Intriguing enough, you might think. Frank also has quite an interesting relationship with his parents, especially his father who constantly refers to him in the third person, even when he is in the same room – “Where’s he going? Why hasn’t he got a job yet?.”

Things take a drastic turn however when Shadrack informs Frank that he’s tired of his mundane existence and is moving to London to be in a rock band, to find his superhuman or as he refers to it, his “oversoul.” Frank is disappointed but still continues to go down to the quarry each day where his head is turned by a beautiful young mother who takes her two children to the quarry to play. At first he just watches her with the aid of some cheap binoculars although he feels slightly seedy about doing this. When he musters enough courage to talk to her, he warns her about the dangers of the blue-green algae but is disappointed by the conversation they have, feeling a bit like a social failure. Over time and a lot of observation, Frank finally manages to find the “oversoul” within himself when he rescues one of the children from a potentially dangerous situation and the reader begins to see a bit of optimism for his future.

I’m finding it quite difficult to express how I feel about this story. I didn’t feel the need to read it a second time as I believe I understood what the author was trying to say but it just left me feeling fairly indifferent. It has a lot of potential for sure with the mysterious blue-green algae, the entity that arises in Frank and the relationship he has with his parents but I’m not sure that enough was made of these strands to form the story that it could have been, if that makes any sense. I do enjoy Graham Joyce’s style of writing and I always appreciate a little darkness in the narrative but I’m afraid this story just didn’t do it for me.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Apple by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories


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