Apple Tea and Camel Pee
by Linley Jones
This all-encompassing collection of short stories is a tribute to Linley Jones’s sharp and thoughtful observation of people and situations that she has encountered here in New Zealand and further afield in Australia and Turkey. The 20 stories embrace the many aspects of life’s relationships: those that strengthen and nurture and those that weaken, those that bring joy and comfort, and those that mean sorrow and anger. We read of high hopes and hopes dashed, of bonds that are ever-lasting and ties that are better severed.
The stories are all very readable but at the same time some of them are soberly thought provoking. The collection is collated in such a way that after several particularly sombre stories a wickedly amusing one lifts our spirits again. In that respect the book’s title, Apple Tea and Camel Pee, pairing two so apparently contrasting liquids, is very aptly chosen since the stories are alternately refreshingly ‘rosy’ – delightfully naughty even – and disturbingly repugnant, yet even the sadder or more moving tales have their well-deserved place here. In the same way, in the story “Apple Tea and Camel Pee” the story’s title aptly sums up the kind-nurse-indifferent-nurse scenario.
It is difficult to read these stories and not recognise someone we know, or ourselves, or something we have experienced in them. On a light note, I thought I recognised Anna in “Henry’s Ashes” and myself in Moira in “Never Underestimate the Power of an Inanimate Object”. On the other hand, the ageism of “Apple Tea and Camel Pee”, the staffroom indifference and playground bullying in “Reading between the Lines” and “Shame” are three of the more haunting tales in the collection. Surprisingly, although the first story, “A Study of Insects”, is set on the desolate Denniston Plateau, its outcome is far from tragic. Maureen is only the first of many enterprising women and men who feature in Apple Tea and Camel Pee.
Turkey runs as a unifying thread through the book, hence not only its title but also the lush carpet on its cover. My only criticism of the cover is that the dark grey writing on the back cover is quite hard to read against the deep red of the carpet pile.
Linley Jones opens Apple Tea and Camel Pee with an introduction to the art of short story writing and cleverly ends it with the youthful and satisfying story “That Critical First Line”.
Apple Tea and Camel Pee is a kaleidoscopic journey through love, conflict, respect, betrayal, hope and death, and Jones closes it tidily with brief notes on the inspiration for each story and the awards her stories have won. The stories are so skilfully written that if asked, I would find it impossible to choose a favourite.
Author: Linley Jones
Publisher: AM Publishing NZ
Available: Unity Books, The Women’s Book shop, Readaway Howick, Wheelers, Allbooks, email@example.com