I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I suppose you could say the cover of this book… caught my eye. After reading it, I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Eye is a loosely thematic collection of short stories that mostly center around, you guessed it, the eye. About as strong is the focus on Greece: its myths, its history, and its superstitions, most prominently the “evil eye.” The author is a retired English professor of Greek heritage, and both of these facts come through in her writing.
The first half of the book includes stories that take place on various Greek islands, most of them about the evil eye, the advent of modernity in rural Greece, or both. The similarities between the stories make them tend to run together, especially when the same handful of names is recycled across stories. It’s unclear whether the author intended some characters to be present in different stories or if she simply wanted to emphasize how common these names are.
With so many stories in similar settings with similar topics, it becomes clear that some are weaker than others, less fleshed out, scraps that could easily have been excised from the collection. “No Man” is a decent introduction to the concept of the evil eye, so I understand why Micros chose to place it at the beginning, but as a story, it falls flat compared to the eerie tone that was likely intended. “The Midwife” and “Thirteen” are likewise unimpressive, and “Paved” is just difficult to read.
Here is where I may have a difference in opinion with someone with an M.F.A. Most notably with “Paved,” but also in some of the other stories, Micros uses experimental, semi-poetic formatting. Her previous publications have been mainly poetry. While I do enjoy poetry, I have limited patience for experimental formatting in prose or prose-like works unless it is done exceptionally well. In my view, Micros uses tired textual tricks that do little to enhance the stories and simply make them less accessible. If this sort of thing is your bread and butter, though, you may find it more interesting than I did.
Out of the swath of stories about traditional Greek life, the title story “Eye” is the most complex and complete, and it forms a clear nucleus to the other works in this section of the text. “The Sacrifice” and “The Secret Temple” also have some freshness to them, although they still aren’t top-tier.
The second half of the collection branches out into more diverse topics, both more fantastical and more realistic than the first. “One Hundred Eyes” takes something of a risk with perspective by telling the tale of Io, who was turned into a cow, in the first person, but ultimately not much is added to the myth with this retelling. “The Cave of Lust” is the most bizarre of the collection and leaves the reader with some food for thought. It is based on Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, which I have not read, and so I do not know how the original might inform the impression of someone who has read it. “The Changeling’s Brother” has a decent but predictable twist.
The strongest of the collection are “The Minotaur” and “The Birthday Gift.” “The Minotaur” has a unique protagonist and concept, and my only complaint is that the metaphor involved is a bit too ham-fisted. “The Birthday Gift” is a curious, insightful comment on the nature of superstition.
The final story, “The Invention of Pantyhose: An Autobiography” is another dive into the word salad-y prose that I disliked in “Paved,” which is a shame, because there is some good content in there.
So, what’s the verdict? These stories aren’t poorly written, exactly, not even the ones with disagreeable formatting. They are structurally sound, as meticulously pruned as one might expect the words of an English professor to be. In terms of content, though, many of the stories suffer from unbearable homogeneity, and that extends to the voices of the characters as well. Each of the first-person narratives reads the exact same way, which defeats the purpose of first-person perspective. I would like the author to have examined a bit more closely who each of her characters are and try to express that through their narrations.
This book is not my cup of tea, but if you are particularly interested in Greek culture or enjoy a poetic, university English department-approved style of writing, it might be for you.
Rating: 2/5 stars.
You might also like:
Check out my masterlist for the rest of my reviews!