Jim Shepard gives us a narrator who serves as executioner during the French Revolution–no wonder Stephen King included this one in the anthology! I’m sure Mr. King was just twitching with delight at Shepard’s fine delivery, realistically presented in the language style of the era, and in a deadpan acceptance of the character’s place in his time and his state.
Nicely done, with enough gore and grit to satisfy those of us who enjoy severed heads that may still express dissatisfaction at their plight after separation. But it is more a story of history and a society that is in transition and yet more violent than its prior oppressors had established as fact.
The narrator is an executioner following family tradition, which it would seem, has its own place in society. His wife is a gentle, sweet, caring individual who loves her husband and her family, despite their occupational choice–which is almost a non-choice because of its inherent traits that inhibit if not prohibit much expansion into more favorable and tasteful employment. Shepard uses this relationship between husband and wife as the underlying conflict to the one of the ongoing Revolution itself and I would believe that while it resolves itself when she finally leaves him, we are left to wonder exactly if it was her choice to do so and how permanent that leaving becomes.
Well written in the voice of the era; how easily one falls back into the language and tone in the reading, and then in the speaking. I pity the next customer who enters my shoppe for the elegance of framing for my mind and tongue are still in the eighteenth century.
Nice work, completely absorbing and I found that I read it eagerly and quickly, pauses taken only be insistence of reality rather than the laying aside as a trial. (See, I told ya.)