Book Review: “The Complete Stories” by Flannery O’Connor

“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” (from “The Displaced Person”)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1971. 579 pages.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1971. 579 pages.

I am still in the middle of my little short story reading surge. I have been working on *this* volume of short stories for almost as long as my blog has been in existence, but it has taken me quite a long time to get through. This isn’t just because it’s a much longer collection of stories than the other ones I’ve been exploring but also because the stories here are heavy and the writing is far more complex and literary than more contemporary works, so I read them slower in order to better analyze everything that’s here.

I first bought this book because of the cover on the edition I’ve pictured above. It’s so pretty and features a peacock since O’Connor raised them, which I thought was very interesting. I’ve always been interested in reading her works since I had to read her arguably most famous story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” for school. This particular collection contains each story found in her previous short story volumes as well as twelve additional ones that had been published elsewhere during her short lifetime.

All of the stories in this book are written in O’Connor’s typical Southern Gothic style, a variety of American fiction that I always enjoy for some reason despite living in an area so far removed from the South. Recurring themes include the main character often having a very racist, gender-biased, and/or generally prejudicial worldview and having this come back to get them in the end, as well as examining the socioeconomic disparities between different groups of people in the mid-century South. O’Connor was also extremely religious and her Catholicism is also quite prevalent in terms of many characters having religious experiences and finding their faith growing stronger (but I would not call this Christian fiction by any means). O’Connor’s writing is extremely blunt and often very very violent. I had some trouble adjusting to the more dated and regional language use in earlier stories but for the most part I really liked the writing style, in that each story had a moral and that for the most part characters tended to get what was coming to them.

Some of my favorite stories of the 31 were “The Crop,” “A Late Encounter with the Enemy,” “A Circle in the Fire,” “Good Country People,” “The Enduring Chill,” and “The Lame Shall Enter First.” It probably wouldn’t be too hard to find these and many of the other stories online if you are interested! I am giving The Complete Stories 4 stars and I would also like to explore O’Connor’s two full length novels in the future.


One thought on “Book Review: “The Complete Stories” by Flannery O’Connor

  1. Pingback: WWW Wednesday #11 | The Bookish Barrister

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