Review: How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

how to breathe

One of my aims this year is to read more short story collections, and this was the first one I chose.  Julie Orringer’s debut  collection is fully set in the real world, and the focus is on childhood, friendship and family dynamics.  Several of the stories deal with loss and dying and evoke an almost ethereal atmosphere, though some of them are just downright crazy! (I’m looking at you, Pilgrims …).  They are touching stories about the difficult times in life.  There is quite a focus on the competitiveness of female friendship, particularly during the teenage years, and although this may be difficult to read at times, I thought it was portrayed quite realistically and sensitively – teenage girls can be bitchy and competitive as they grow and find out who they are going to mature into, and this is something Orringer does not shy away from.

My favourite story was The Isabel Fish which tells of a girl who survived an accident in which her brother’s girlfriend died.  The sibling dynamics were portrayed in a very interesting way, and I thought this was the most touching of all the stories.

Orringer certainly has a talent for evoking a sense of place and atmosphere.  Her first novel, The Invisible Bridge, was published in 2011 and is one I will certainly check out in the future.  As for this short story collection, I really enjoyed it and gave it 4 stars.




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