Five Hundred Poor is a very clever, fascinating and uniquely constructed book. There are 10 short stories that are unconnected in terms of storyline, but they combine to create a profound theme of loss and despair. We may consider our lives to be poorer when our dreams don’t materialise, when fate transpires against us, when we experience unrequited love or when our health limits our quality of life.
“Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man, there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many.”
Each story is provocative, sharp and gritty, and while some deal with poverty in financial terms, others see poverty in loss of integrity, hope or faith, either from a personal, family or social perspective. I suppose every reader will recognise examples of each emotion in those we know or of a more personal nature and therefore certain stories become more relevant.
Sometimes bad choices or illegal activities can lead to a downward spiral of misbehaviour and hostility. We understand these as a typical consequence but what really challenges our sense of fairness is that in some instances the characters can’t do right for doing wrong. No matter what choice they make it will acutely and negatively affect their lives. The sharp and reflective aspect of each story is often reinforced with quite an abrupt end. It entices our imagination but leaves us in no doubt that the outcomes are harsh and often fatal.
While the themes are emotionally challenging it is a great examination of deep feelings wonderfully written. Some of the stories have continued to play on my mind since finishing. It is very different, profound and refreshingly provocative. I would highly recommend reading this book.
Many thanks to Central Avenue Publishing and NetGalley, for an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.