by Linley Jones
In these uncertain and rather worrying times, short stories provide an attractive alternative to the longer immersion required when a novel or a weighty volume of non-fiction is tackled. This collection is a case in point.
The stories are well-written, but their appeal goes well beyond simply that. They are in turn provocative, compassionate without being overly sentimental, often highly amusing and always entertaining. They are also based firmly in ordinary human experience, and for the relatively small amount of time involved the reader is rewarded lavishly by having some of them stay in mind long after the last sentence is read. These are stories that don’t try to shock with edgy language or escape into fantasy, but they will frequently induce gasps of recognition, and they do sometimes have an unexpected twist in their tail.
There are some that had particular appeal for this reviewer. One concerns a keen gardener with a neighbour who also spends much of his time in his own plot cultivating potatoes, constantly repeating the first phrase of an annoying ditty as he works. So strong is her reaction to this annoyance she is eventually driven to a desperate remedy.
In another, a doctor has to come to terms with the tragic effects of an abusive relationship in one of her patients while dealing with personal problems of her own.
A particular favourite is one concerning a meeting between a man’s adult children and his choice of new partner, that shows how difficult (indeed, perhaps impossible) it is to make headway against the established bigotry of those who will not even subject their own thoughts to rational analysis.
Then there is one concerning a frustrated young lawyer trapped in a high-rise office who momentarily mistakes a skinny lad wrapped in a blue towel and wearing red budgie-smugglers for Superman come to rescue her. Oh, how disappointing reality can be!
Perhaps the most moving story is one that reminds us of both the dreadful inhumanity of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.
For readers who might be inspired by these stories to try writing some of their own, the author has provided useful short notes at the end telling something of how she herself found the required inspiration. But it is the stories themselves that will be the real attraction here. Some will appeal more strongly than others, but they are all at the very least thought-provoking.
This is a small volume – perfect for tucking under a pillow or slipping into a pocket – but it packs a punch.
Author: Linley Jones
Available: Poppies Books, Howick; or email@example.com