Book Review: Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill

Daydreams of Angels (HarperCollins, 2015)

Daydreams of Angels (HarperCollins, 2015)

In the womb, you hear people talking and their voices sound like someone you’re in love with talking in their sleep.

from “Heaven”

Heather O’Neill excels at creating metaphors that are both etirely unique and powerfully, strangely accurate. This skill – seen in her novels (Lullabies for Little Criminals and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night) – seems even more evident in the tight, condensed form of the short story.

In addition to their reserved disposition, the twins were known for their beauty…People who manufactured cracker boxes were always trying to get them to pose for them.

from “Messages in Bottles”

There are twenty stories in this collection, some a little longer, but most are delicious morsels. Many feature the Montreal neighbourhoods familiar to readers of O’Neill’s novels. Several are set during World War Two. They are fairy tales, love stories, family legends. Like O’Neill’s novels, these tales are peopled with extremem character; once again she describes the delightful eccentricities of their clothing, their speech. Many of the characters blaance between charm and terror. Many love their current lives and many long for something more. Sometimes at the same time.

A number of the stories are narratives told by grandparents to “me and my brothers”. Not necessarily the same “me” or the same brothers but it gives a thematic weight to the collection. A common thread of passion on family stories. The absurd tales we tell children and the delight in hearing a story that you’re not sure you should believe.

She had this incredible story. It was the most incredible thing about her. Actually, it was so incredible that it was probably the most incredible thing about us too.

from “The Story of a Rose Bush”

Those who’ve enjoyed O’Neill’s novels will love this continuation of her world. If you haven’t read O’Neill before this collection offers a great introduction.

They don’t know. It’s not their fault. What are they supposed to do when they’ve been told their whole lives not to believe in fairy tales?

from “The Gypsy and the Bear”

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