cover image Touchy Subjects: Stories

Touchy Subjects: Stories

Emma Donoghue, . . Harcourt, $24 (280pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101386-9

In contrast to previous books focused on feminist retellings of fairy tales (Kissing the Witch ) and revisionist imaginings of historical and folkloric female figures (The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits ), Irish writer Donoghue's latest, a set of 19 witty tales, remains firmly planted in Ireland's present. Divided into five sections—"Babies," "Domesticity," "Strangers," "Desire," "Death"—the book has one unifying theme: the characters' constant need for revision—of assumptions, perceptions and expectations—in light of new information. In "Expecting," a woman re-evaluates her maternal instincts when a stranger misinterprets her condition. Elsewhere, a heartbroken young woman uses a trip abroad to indulge her fantasies of being Catherine Deneuve or Isadora Duncan, but discovers true healing in a more unlikely incarnation. In "The Sanctuary of Hands," a bitter, washed-up writer finds true genius during his yearlong residency, but not in the way he expected. Throughout, Donoghue offers deadpan asides about the trappings of the recent boom times in Ireland. (June)