Author: Claire Rye
Title: The Backseat
This is a truly exquisite, lovely book. One of the best reads I have stumbled upon lately. It consists of several short stories, spanning a century, if you also consider events that are narrated by some of the characters. All the stories are linked by a common denominator: an old car, a Chevy 1959. Writing interesting short stories is a rather difficult task, but the author created a real masterpiece here. Each story frames a detail, a specific situation in the life of each character, and doing so, it portrays an incredibly rich galaxy of human feelings and behaviours. The former being a constant, the latter changing with the changing times. I could not but admire Claire Rye’s insight into the human way of thinking; ability that must proceed from a careful and sensitive observation of people. Also, the idea of narrating a piece of common people history through the story of a car is somewhat poetic. First of all the car is a vehicle, so, even conceptually, what better prop to transport you across the decades? This car in particular, as it is also written in the second to last story, becomes a sort of time machine in order to do just that. I do not have a passion toward cars as such; still, cars do somehow become part of a family’s life, don’t they? There are many memories linked to specific vehicles you have owned through your life. I myself have bought my own little car twenty years ago, and I can say that I have sort of grown old with her, she has witnessed so many of my experiences, and been a silent confidante for so many outburst of feelings, that I couldn’t have been able to share with other people, for matters of convenience… Solitary speeches, song creations, poetry writing, short naps and much more, have all happened in that little metal shelter. Maybe also for this reason I was so delighted in this book. There is so much in it, that I think any person could find a piece of themselves in one story or the other. If I were asked, I wouldn’t know which story to pick as my favourite, starting from the first one to the very last one, none is pointless, no words are wasted, they are all essential parts of the final puzzle. There are some that are moving, such as the ones regarding the Richardson family; some contain an element of fun mixed with exasperation, such as the second one The Beginning; in others you will find the search for freedom and emancipation, or loneliness and incomprehension, many different themes. About loneliness and incomprehension, I think the story The Drifter deserves a special mention because it touches a very sensitive topic, exploring it from two opposite points of view and without any judgement on either side, as I intended it. It is food for thought and also very moving.I will not disclose any details regarding the actual stories because I don’t want to spoil other readers’ experience. I will say that the book is very well written, in a sober and elegant style that you cannot remain indifferent to. As a bonus, although it is not a novel, it still has a surprise ending, which might even make you go back and pay attention to one detail you could have missed in one of the previous stories.