The Pier Falls, Mark Haddon, author; Clare Corbett, Daniel Weyman, narrators
In nine eloquently written short stories, Haddon explores the themes of trust, panic, betrayal, abandonment, escaping, loneliness, fear, madness, coping and survival. He makes the ordinary, extraordinary, by turning it into something exotic, twisting and reshaping its edges so that our ideas, expectations and conclusions are totally unanticipated. These stories reach deeply into the minds of the characters to find their weaknesses and their strengths. They are not all likeable as he develops their character traits in minute detail. Their flaws and vulnerabilities are exploited. Haddon forces the readers to enter into the world of their own deepest fears as he creates mystery and tension and expertly draws them into the tales involving them emotionally. He forces them to watch the characters experience the extremes of adversity and then examines how they cope with, live with, and/or die, dealing with it. This is a difficult read, but it is one that will stay with you and keep you thinking and analyzing your own behavior and that of others, long after.
The characters are betrayed, abandoned, abused and tortured. One character is morbidly obese. Another is dealing with the supernatural. A third is disturbed and on and on. We witness depravity, cruelty, phantoms and the supernatural. It will be frightening as the reader realizes that although these stories seem to stretch credibility, they also are very credible indeed. Parts of each story seem to be taken from real life, but then they are woven into tales that are darker and more hopeless than one could imagine. Shootings, amputations, murder, and suicide are all within the realm of possibility, but Haddon takes them a step farther. They are broadened into unimaginable circumstances as the characters face situations in which they are helpless to alter their fate. The ways in which Haddon spins the stories will completely seize the reader’s attention even as the reader wants to pull themselves away because sometimes the stories seem too hard to read. Fortunately, the author comes through with a light touch, at times, making sure you never quite get to the point where you give up. The readers and the characters are at the edge of a precipice, but the reader has the opportunity to step back. The tales never really reach a final conclusion; but rather they leave the reader wondering and thinking. Common threads and themes running through each tale as they go from one to another knit the stories together.
Both narrators do a good job, but the male narrator is exceptional He has a beautiful sonorous voice, strong at times and tender at others. His narration gave each story the appropriate tone and amount of gravity it deserved. This is not an easy read or a read for everyone because it is dark and somber, but brilliant. Everyone’s worst nightmare is brought to life and examined in daylight and darkness. Be prepared, each story contains some kind of violent behavior, physical, mental or emotional, which will tax your brain.