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"It was the curse of the modern age, options: who needed options, when everything was essentially meaningless?"

So says one of the characters in Lara Williams' extraordinary debut story collection. Treats is a break-up album of tales covering relationships, the tyranny of choice, and self navigation. This fresh, beguiling new voice paints a portrait of contemporary womanhood, balancing wry humour with a pervading sense of alienation.

Williams' characters struggle with how to negotiate intimacy within relationships and isolation when single, the pitfalls and indignities of dating, dragged down by dissatisfaction. Meanwhile the dilemmas of contemporary adulthood play out, including abortion, depression, extra-marital affairs, infatuation, new baby anxiety, bereavement, hair loss, sexual ethics, cats, and taxidermy.

125 pages, Paperback

First published March 3, 2016

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Lara Williams

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5 stars
193 (17%)
4 stars
342 (31%)
3 stars
376 (34%)
2 stars
139 (12%)
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30 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 208 reviews
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,398 followers
December 10, 2017
Many of us have taken a selfie at one time or another, especially if we're on social media and/or have a smartphone that makes it simple, and it doesn't say anything about our character one way or the other. However, fairly or not, the term "selfie" has connotations of extreme self-absorption: people who ignore their surroundings in favor of staring at their phones, who constantly overshare on Instagram and Facebook, and, of course, who document their every look or mood with a new photo of themselves. Given this, is it a good idea to include the word "selfie" in a book title? I'm sure the publisher thought A Selfie as Big as the Ritz (also the name of one of the stories in this collection) sounded very up-to-the-minute and zeitgeisty, and perhaps assumed the reader would take it ironically. Still, it seems like a pretty big risk to take for an author's first book, a needless obstacle the book must surmount to prove its worth.

So does A Selfie as Big as the Ritz surmount the obstacle of its own title? Nope!

This collection contains 21 stories, many of them only 3-4 pages long, and all of them show a bewildering allegiance to the most unoriginal of cliches. It's as if this author hasn't really absorbed any of the thoughts and feelings she's had about the real events of her life, but she's paid avid attention to all the media stereotypes of sitcoms and women's magazines, and she believes in those with all of her heart. If you're in your 30s, you must be heading towards oldmaidsville. If you're getting a cat, you're a crazy cat lady. If you're a single mother, you must always feel like a lesser being for not being married. No one here subverts these expectations or even questions them. As a reading experience, it's not just unsatisfying, it's downright depressing.

Equally depressing is how weary all of these characters are, and how dull. Most of them seem to be in their mid-twenties, so I couldn't for the life of me figure out why they were all so weary about everything, as if each of them had already seen enough hardships for ten people—when, based on these stories, most of them had actually seen very few hardships thus far in their brief lives. No one has any interests or passions; the people in couples tend to lie on the couch wordlessly watching TV in sweats, and the single people go out and do things solely because they need to distract themselves from the fact that they're single. I guess the weariness and depression and boredom are the point, but there's more to life than this. Out of 21 stories, couldn't maybe 5 of them have been about something else? This collection would have benefited from the contrast.

Then there's the matter of the writing: It's the same all the way through. I don't know how old Lara Williams is, but I assume she's on the young side, and really, someone needs to let these young, internet-based writers know that different styles and tones can be used for different effects. It doesn't all have to be in the same voice, all the time, for all 21 stories. You can change it up a little! No, seriously, change it up a little. Change it up. At least a little. Please.

I will admit that there were two or three lines in here that made an impression on me. Offhand I can't think of what they are, but I'm sure there were, so I'll give this two stars instead of one. Should you read it? No, not right now. In 30 or 40 years everyone who remembers life before the internet will be dead, or near death. By then, stuff like this will probably seem like the height of genius. I would suggest waiting and reading it then. Visit my grave and tell me what you thought of it!

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
May 24, 2017
Most of these stories are very brief, 2-3 pages, about life. Some are funny, some have startling points, some are sad because they feel so much like real life. Several of the stories are written in second person which means there are no character names and in general they leave the reader with an unsettled feeling... or shall I say they leave YOU with an unsettling feeling because else could YOU be, in that situation.

I read these after hearing about the "Republic of Consciousness" book prize in the UK, a new prize meant to focus on small presses.

My favorite stories:

"One of those Life Things"
"This Small Written Thing"
"It's a Shame About Ray"
Profile Image for Vanessa.
868 reviews1,096 followers
March 7, 2016
4.5 stars.

I was kindly sent this for review by the publishers - thank you to Freight Books for sending me this in exchange for an honest review!

I seem to be having good luck with Freight Books, as far as publishers go - yet another brilliant read! This debut collection of short stories was relatable, memorable, and damn entertaining.

The stories focus very much on those in their 20s in the 21st-century, and the trials and tribulations we can all go through. So many topics are touched here - sex, love, families new and old, university, finding yourself... everything you could hope for in a contemporary collection.

Lara Williams has a wonderful style of writing. Her humour was black and cynical at times, but always brought a smile to my lips no matter how depressing/tragic the subject matter, and she has some wonderful turns of phrase. It's been a while since I have been so acutely aware of imagery in writing before, and many of the descriptions she used really spoke to me and have remained in my mind since reading.

I will edit this review once I have the book to hand, so I can write a full list of my favourite stories from this collection, but I can safely say that I enjoyed each and every one of them. Pick this up if you enjoy contemporary short story collections that explore the lives of both men and women, I implore you.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
February 23, 2016
* I was sent this for review from the publisher (after I requested it) but this in no way affects my overall opinion *

This is a debut short story collection and I have to say it's something I was looking forward to as I've not yet read a literary collection, but this is literary. I do think that this book has some truly excellent moments, for example some of the ways Williams describes moments in the day or feelings about life and hardship were hugely relatable and interesting, good to know you aren't alone with some of those thoughts. Equally, she writes about some topics and feelings I am not familiar with, and therein lies the reason that this doesn't get a higher rating.

This is a collection with many stories and I would have to say that of the many stories about two thirds are somewhat memorable (each for different reasons and some more than others) and a third are forgettable. For instance, some of my favourites within the collection are: It Begins, One Of Those Life Things, Beautiful Existence, It's A Shame About Ray, Treats, Penguins. I particularly think It Begins resonated with me as I am about to leave University and go out into the the big scary world and I do hope my life doesn't go the way of the character in that story!!
I also found the descriptions of the birds within Beautiful Existence very realistic and well-written, again something I could connect and relate to myself.
I liked the sadness in both One Of Those Life Things and It's A Shame About Ray. These two stories are probably some of the most hard-hitting for the topics they deal with and they are more emotional and frank.
Treats was both a happy and a sad story for me as it's about an elderly lady who feels like no one ever really treats her so she decides to do lovely little things for everyone else. She's a lonely person, but she's also a thoughtful and loving one and I have to say I liked her character most in this book.
Finally, Penguins... Now, Penguins is just a very bizarre one but it's the one I think I will remember most vividly becuase of how odd it is. It deals with the topic of Obesity, and it does so in a very blunt and odd way. With that said, I liked the story and felt it was kind of out-there, but in a memorable way for sure.

One of the things I most liked about this collection is that many of the stories are written in the second person and are told as if you are the character and you are experiencing all sorts of things within the story. This is really effective and Williams knows how to make you feel uncomfortable as a reader or involved in the story.

Honestly my only criticisms with this are that all the stories are depressing in some way and there are very few moments of hope for the characters. I suppose it's not an unrealistic depiction, but I would have liked a few more happy moments personally. The writing is beautiful, and Williams can write for sure, but some of the stories are much less memorable than others. I think the ones mentioned above are by far the most memorable and whilst I did think all the others were good, I couldn't tell you what happened in all of them as some were similar to others within the collection.

Overall I gave this a 3.5*s as it's a very beautiful collection and although it does have sorrowful undertones it's also gritty and real. I loved some of the wording and moments she creates for the reader, and I look forward to seeing what else she will bring out in future!
Profile Image for Arthur Graham.
Author 70 books651 followers
April 29, 2019
This wound up being better than I thought it would going in, sort of like an Alice Munro-lite for the Millennial set. Granted, I am probably not a member of the intended audience.

I won this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway.
Profile Image for Janelle Janson.
709 reviews441 followers
December 14, 2017
A SELFIE AS BIG AS THE RITZ by Lara Williams - Thank you so much to Flatiron Books for providing my free copy – all opinions are my own.

I read this short story collection in one sitting – it’s a tiny book that has a big impact. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I’d say the target audience is twenty-something women, but that didn’t bother me. I really loved five stories in particular, One of Those Life’s Things, Dates, This Small Written Thing, It Begins, and Treats. These short stories are very well-written and each story gives you a small view into each person’s life. I loved that the women portrayed in this collection did not have their life “perfectly together” and are still trying to figure out their own way. I think we can all relate to that at one time or another.

I also have to add that the book, dust jacket, pages…. ALL. OF. IT. is just GORGEOUS!

Profile Image for MaryBeth's Bookshelf.
379 reviews86 followers
February 25, 2018
A Self as Big as the Ritz is a collection of short stories all about love, loss, and relationships. I enjoyed reading the different perspectives and it made me think about how you truly do not know what goes on between two people behind closed doors.

The writing was perfect, detailed, and honest.
Profile Image for Nicola.
Author 6 books497 followers
March 2, 2016
Review coming soon. In short, it's a rare find and a gem: I enjoyed every story, found plenty to think on, and loved the author's consistently gorgeous turn of phrase. A wee gem.
Profile Image for Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun).
315 reviews1,974 followers
November 8, 2017
A beautiful collection. Williams's word choice is consistently stunning. The only problems are that the stories are all so short and similar in tone, and that there are 21 of them. So I think I would've been impressed more by these stories if I'd read them individually, but all together they blurred and I can barely remember any of the details. But overall Williams is trying to inspire a feeling - something brutal and gloomy. Basically, every single one of the humans in this collection is completely alone, even in the presence of other people. Stories that are individually forgettable, but collectively memorable.
Profile Image for Alice.
761 reviews2,776 followers
July 10, 2016
A good collection with themes I think are interesting for anyone who has grown up in the modern age. Some stories were excellent and the writing is overall lovely. It is a bit repetitive though, making the weaker stories blend a bit into each other, which is unfortunate.
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,210 followers
March 14, 2017
Treats by Lara Williams is the final book for me from the shortlist of the new crowd-funded Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses and the one on the, generally excellent, list that impressed me least.

It is another short-story collection - not my favourite genre. On the comments of another GR's book review, a fellow Goodreader commented, which I thought summed it up perfectly
I'm not a short story person, either. To me, reading a novel is like going to a party where I don't know anyone: it takes a certain amount of emotional effort. If I find someone to talk to, I might have a nice time. The trouble with short stories is that it's like finding that person with whom to talk, and then being yanked back into the hallway where I have to open the door to an entirely new party.
To extend the analogy, for me the conversations in the different parties either then have to be linked to form a coherent whole, or sufficiently fascinating in their own right to justify the investment and this didn't tick either box.

It begins well with a story called, appropriately, It Begins which in four pages covers the life of a woman from graduation through marriage, divorce, dating again and resigned singleness. This on finding work as an arts graduate rang true - albeit, as a mathematician, I was in the cynical camp:

You get an office job. You assimilate with business graduates, with their hearty sense of cynicism, a premature world-weariness, worn like a badge of honour. So pleased with their early recognition, their, this is life. This marching course of spreadsheets and workflows and thin-lipped jokes in strategising brainstorms, this is all there is and we knew all along, while you were dilly-dallying with your Chaucer, frolicking with your intertextuality, we were squirrelling away the capacity to deal with this.

The problem was that the other stories all seemed to largely re-tread the same ground. Again on the party analogy this was like having variations of the same conversation with similarish people over and over again.

There was the occasional gem: this description of breaking-up from One Of Those Life Things (albeit again the stories contained quite a lot of breaking-up):

You sit on the living room floor, dividing your stuff into piles, His 'n' Hers, mournfully compartmentalised into past, present and future: present the buffer zone between, a veritable no-man's land, ripe for the picking. You both have your eyes on the garlic crusher.

This from A Single Lady's Manual for Parent / Teacher Evening

You look at the other mothers, you see how they regard you, a sinister rogue agent, with small, sharp, teeth and a face full of make-up. They grip their husbands. You wish you were wearing something lower cut.

And I enjoyed the title story Treats about an Office Manager and PA on her 50th birthday looking back on her life: "performing secret good deeds was a guilt pleasure for Elaine" but no one seems to reciprocate: e.g. what she assumes is a birthday present from her boss is actually a parcel to courier.

But ultimately I would have had a much better impression had I stopped after the first story.

For balance I will quote the nomination from the judges for the shortlist, which addresses some of my issues but argues for the book's other merits.
Yes, these are short stories about women in their mid-to-late twenties, and yes, in a way they cover many of those life moments often found in the more sophisticated chick-lit. Should it be on our long-list? Absolutely – Lara Williams is gifted writer. But more importantly, every story has an edge, an unexpected slant, a truth-seeking glance that forswears easy answers and creates a subtle ambiguity that forces us to doubt that happiness and contentment is around the corner. These stories take a sub-genre that is often frivolous and unthinkingly optimistic and renders the subject matter with an artistry it deserves.
Profile Image for Lucy Somerhalder.
90 reviews5 followers
May 23, 2016
Williams has given us some really arresting and clever turns of phrase, however I found it a bit too artificial to give it more than 3 stars. I found it very 'creative writing class', and although not technically bad, it lacks the honesty that seems essential to making something like this work. I was hoping for a Miranda July, or Amy Hempel kind of rawness, but it just wasn't there. Having said that, Williams can clearly write, and I look forward to checking out her next book.
Profile Image for Claire.
108 reviews
August 4, 2022
“Treats”, “Taxidermy” and “Sundaes at the tipping yard” were probably my favorites
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,777 reviews1,261 followers
September 4, 2019
I won this book as a raffle prize for my part in funding the fantastic new literary prize "The Republic of Consciousness" https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

The shortlist for the award consisted of four novels and four short stories. My own preference is very much for novels over short stories, but this prize has given me the opportunity to engage with an unfamiliar genre.

The book starts strongly, in only 5 pages “It Begins” effortlessly sketches out a few years of the post graduate life of a young girl (moving back home, unable to get a paid job in arts and settling on an office job, falling in love, breakdown of marriage, post-divorce dating). The rest of the book however reads too often like a series of variations around the same theme, but without any real sense of whole such as seen in “Pond” (when the stories are it seems all by the same narrator) or of progression such as seen in “All That Man Is” (when the different characters represent different ages of man). As a result the book becomes a little too repetitive – a continual reworking of themes of love, mismatched relationships, breaking up, disappointment. Too many of the stories fail to really spark. There are some highlights though which like the opening story showcase Williams ability to sketch out 21st Century Life dilemmas:

“One of those Life Things” a girl left unexpectedly by her boyfriend

You thought you might have exited your twenties, before announcing in whisky hushed tones … that you had been left for some kid in their twenties … some blond piece. You feel like some version of yourself sent from a future, dark timeline …. He hadn’t even the decency to have done it at a point when you could have properly committed to the role. Your options scatter like playing cards in front of you, offering only wishy-washed monologue, half-assed character pieces. Where does one go from here? Aerobics and amdram? Pilates and Prozac? … What is the narrative here?

finds that she is pregnant by him (“It is .. positive which seems a .. presumptuous lexicography”) and contemplates an abortion (“You are reading lines form Just Seventeen. You are a freeze frame from Jackie”).

In “This Small Written Thing”, a Manchester based girl whose husband is working away in London, reflects that the foundation story of their relationship, that he helped her home from a party after her drug was spiked, is actually untrue (she had actually taken ecstasy for the first time and reacted badly to it), but nevertheless has “taken flight” with her husband often referring to it.

How was she supposed to know that this thin sliver of untruth, this morsel of fiction, was being dispensed to her future husband … to grow fat, to develop wings …. she hadn’t realised lies take effort, they take commitment. She hadn’t realised that if you’re not in for the long haul, well best not, to bother at all. She hadn’t yet realised that in a relationship, honesty was just one of the many options, a sort of moral high ground, yes, but no more than vegetarianism or recycling. And she was both a vegetarian and a recycler.

Later, despite behavioural evidence that her husband is having some form of affair in London, she chooses to ignore it “No it couldn’t be another woman. She was the liar, the deceiver, the fraud”. Over time, her realisation that truth is not necessarily positive for a relationship causes her to take a deliberate choice to ignore hard evidence of emails from the other woman.

She gripped him tighter, because what is it really, this small written thing, gone with the click of a button, the collapse of a screen, vanished, gone.
Profile Image for Laura Waddell.
Author 6 books26 followers
February 23, 2016
Full disclosure: I work at the publisher. That aside, I'm incredibly proud we're publishing debut writing of this calibre and this book is very close to my heart. The stories within are varied in voice but with a common strand of alienation: many characters are establishing their place in the world, in their career, or within (or without relationships). As a woman in 2016, I feel that Lara Williams picks up on many very subtly illuminating points and emotional flutterings of everyday life and how people relate to one another. Early reviewers have compared her to Lorrie Moore and "something Katherine Mansfield might have written, if she lived in a world with iPhones and Topshop." This collection is nuanced, socially aware, intelligent, classic storytelling in an utterly contemporary world, and I fell in love with it. One of my favourite reads of the year: I hope it will be one of yours too.
Profile Image for ev ⚘.
201 reviews2 followers
November 8, 2021
( only read the short-story “treats” for a uni class )

it had me laughing, crying, contemplating my life decisions, and smiling at the same time?? it was an insanely well-written short story.
Profile Image for Neil.
1,007 reviews638 followers
February 24, 2017
Are there books for girls and books for boys? Is it sexist to even think such a thing? I hope not, but I can't help but notice that of the 200+ reviews and ratings of this book on Goodreads, comfortably less than 10% of them are from men. I wonder if perhaps this is a book for girls and not for boys and perhaps that is one of the reasons I didn’t really get on with it.

I think there’s another, more fundamental reason, though. Take this quote: "At twenty-eight Neala lost her boyfriend. At twenty-nine she lost her job. At thirty she lost her full head of hair." That sort of sums up the stories in this book: they are all rather depressing (although there are some funny moments).

I don’t want to be accused of thinking that girls only like depressing books, so let me make it clear I am not making any connection between these two things other than that they are the possible reasons that I didn’t really enjoy reading this book. In the end, I found myself skipping hurriedly through the final couple of stories in order to get the book finished.

Since then I’ve read a few reviews that speak of how wonderful this collection of short stories is. And I can see that a lot of people have rated it highly, so I am quite happy to acknowledge that it might just be me, but I didn’t connect with the different stories here even though I can see that many of them are well written.

Just not for me, I guess. Let’s leave it at that.
Profile Image for AJ.
51 reviews8 followers
October 31, 2017
Quick Take:

This was a great short story collection showcasing several relatable women at different points in their lives.  We got to see small snippets of their days that somehow managed to convey everything we needed to know about their hopes and disappointments.  Most could be described as 'lost,' although I hate that term.  There is so much pressure to have everything figured out at 22, right out of college.  If you don't start then, you'll never be able to catch up.  The women Williams introduces us to did not get started then, or they did but then hit a bump somewhere along the perfect life road.  This short story collection made me feel better about not having my life 'together' (who gets to define what together even means?) as I enter my late twenties. I just wish we had more time with each story rather than just the short snippets.  Definitely worth a read if you are also entering your late twenties or just feel a bit lost or not completely 'together.'    
Profile Image for Bridgett Brown.
830 reviews45 followers
June 5, 2017
I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway.
This is a small book. It's only 145 pages but also it's a tiny book, like half the size of a normal book. In the title story, a relationship implodes in Paris. In “One of Those Life Things,” a young woman struggles to say the right thing at her best friend’s abortion. In “Penguins,” a girlfriend tries to accept her boyfriend’s bizarre sexual fantasy. In “Treats,” a single woman comes to terms with her loneliness.
I really enjoyed the small stories in this book.
Profile Image for Alan.
Author 11 books160 followers
December 16, 2017
Excellent, sharp stories of (mostly) single women in or out of relationships (including details of some bizarre sexual preferences of boyfriends), as student, worker, ex. Involving, funny, I did knock off a star due to overuse of the second person. I don't know, it does work well sometimes (e.g. One of my favourite novels is in s.p., despite the 'My': 'The Sound of My Voice' by Ron Butlin), but it seems presumptuous somehow, 'you look for an apartment' - no I don't.
Profile Image for Kirsty.
Author 71 books1,292 followers
October 21, 2018
This wasn't really for me – I'm not big into realism, particularly that Girls/Sally Rooney style 'over-educated artsy twentysomething women in the city having breakups and questioning their careers' type realism. Too familiar? Too close to home maybe? When I read I want to meet people that I don't already know in my real life, to go places I can't go in the real world. While the book isn't for me, I like Lara Williams' writing style, and I'll give her future books a go.
Profile Image for Laci Long Carrera | Book Pairings.
568 reviews168 followers
December 18, 2017
This is a great collection of stories about women who were not following the roadmap to the “perfect life” for one reason or another. In each story you get a glimpse of the character’s life. I thought that they were all well developed stories (which I think is hard to do in a short story). I loved that the women were portrayed as not having their lives together because that feels authentic to where most 20-something women are in their lives. Life never goes according to plan and I felt that this collection did a good job of highlighting that without it becoming depressing.

Overall, I thought this was a great collection and gave it 3 out of 5 stars. I do wish there was more time spent on a few stories, but overall as a collection I thought it was well written and thoughtful. This is definitely worth a read if you are feeling a bit lost yourself or just enjoy flawed characters.
Profile Image for Cherise Wolas.
Author 3 books238 followers
August 4, 2018
This is an atmospheric and short collection of 21 stories revolving around love found and lost or discarded, relationships that peter out, the struggles and setbacks of those who are mostly in their 20s and 30s, and so very unclear about what they might want for themselves. They seem clear about themselves though, we are very much in their minds, learning the thoughts of these characters floating through their lives, barely attached to the ground. The writing is spare, and there are many wonderful turns of phrase. Under 200 pages, it took me a long time to read these stories, because I wanted to keep each separate so they didn't run together in my mind, but also because the melancholic angst had to be doled out in small parcels.
Profile Image for Jenn.
648 reviews
June 5, 2017
I won a copy of this book.

What can I say, I love these stories! They're glimpses into the lives of people, well-written, and they each create a beautiful picture of that person's reality. Asking you, the reader, to allow Williams to take over your brain for a moment so she can show you something.
Profile Image for Helen McClory.
Author 9 books195 followers
February 13, 2016
Each of these stories blows like a bracing wind - brilliantly written, devastating in parts out an acuity, a sense of the smallness and frailty of human relationships. Stories that make you want to seek shelter out of their keen urbane gaze. Every now and then, a moment of grace.
Profile Image for Estelle Laure.
Author 22 books557 followers
August 12, 2017
Normally when I read short stories, I read one or two at a time. This acted like a really compelling novel. I could not put it down. I laughed, cried, and sighed. I had many moments of wonder about the mastery on a sentence level AND an emotional catharsis. Definitely, definitely five stars.
Profile Image for Stacey.
155 reviews31 followers
November 29, 2017
I won a copy of this book from @booksugar (via IG) and Flatiron Books. Though I really like short stories, I haven't read any collections in a long time. I was happy to dive into this one - I found the writing really accessible and really well written.

Profile Image for Hope.
75 reviews
May 31, 2017
Okay so I actually liked this a lot. Lara's writing style and the way that she put all of this together just worked so well for me. It's a small book but it really packs a punch.
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