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No One Belongs Here More Than You is a collection of short stories by Miranda July, published by Canongate in 2008. I've been listening to the audiobook, read by the author herself.
July's stories are about everyday people, their lives, their secrets, their thoughts and desires. Her narrators are primarily female, although not exclusively, and are a varied range of ages. There are no particularly extraordinary events in the stories, rather they follow events which could happen everyday and the narrator's reaction to these. The stories are of varied lengths, ranging from almost 50 minutes to under 5 minutes.
There is a gentle and subtle humour to some of the stories, but for me it is overshadowed by a slightly dark undertone running through almost all the stories. The only ones which I can recall as being devoid of this are the story "The Swimming Lesson", in which a woman recalls teaching three octogenarians how to swim - without a swimming pool, and "This Person", a rather vague tale about a special day in someone's life.
The sinister feeling is subtle, and not overly apparent, but I found that it niggled at me and that I was unable to warm to July's characters. One has a nap after watching her neighbour have an epileptic fit; one is an aging factory worker who becomes infatuated with the idea of dating a co-worker's sister who he imagines to be a teenager; one dates a schoolboy she believes to be the human embodiment of a "being" who loved her as a teenager. While not overtly explicit, there are hints and indications of darker thoughts than those which the narrator reveals to us.
While listening to "The Moves" I didn't know whether to laugh or think it was a bit weird; a very short story, a dying father gives his daughter the only legacy he can - he teaches her the finger moves to use on a woman. The daughter herself seems a bit unsure about this, although ends by deciding she will pass them on one day.
There is also some sadness to the stories. In "Mon Plaisir" we hear about a couple who are stuck in a bit of a rut, and turn to working as film extras to have an activity to do together, which appears to have the effect of bringing them together. Although the narrator is fairly matter of fact about their relationship and the routine they have, there is still sadness to the story.
July's reading of the stories is, presumably, exactly how she wrote them as - this is how they should be read. I found her reading to be rather slow and languid sounding, which added to the slightly dark tone to the stories; her reading style made the characters sound ever so slightly dim and somewhat repressed. On the whole they do not come across as hugely intelligent characters. Every so often her voice lowers, usually when reading dialogue of another characters, and I found this tone of voice to be much more sinister sounding than her normal reading.
Having read around to see what others have said about No One Belongs Here More Than You, I think it is clear that the audiobook gives the reader/listener a different experience to reading the print book; I have not seen many others commenting on this sense of a dark undertone. I actually believe that reading the print book would be better than the audiobook for these stories; I decided this fairly early on while listening, as I think I would take a different interpretation of the stories, and that it would be a more enjoyable experience.
Overall, I'm really not sure what to make of No One Belongs Here More Than You. I can't even decide if I enjoyed it; I think I feel fairly ambivalent about it. The audiobook had its benefits - a story or two fit nicely into my commute, but I feel I would have got more out of the print book.
This review was first published under my username on www.curiousbookfans.co.uk, and a review copy of the book was recieved from the publisher through Curious Book Fans.