by Vivienne Lingard
The 21 stories in this collection might have been written or selected to present a balance, they being neatly divided in terms of first and third person narration, and with males and females as central figures – their ages spanning the life range though with a preference for youngish adults.
The characters are New Zealanders but the settings of the stories are also fairly even divided between this country and overseas locations. In New Zealand people live in or visit Dunedin, Wellington, Napier, Nelson-Motueka, Manawatu or pop up on the Heaphy track. Elsewhere we meet them in London, Delhi, Prague, Rome, New York.
Their voices vary, particularly and appropriately in those with first-person narration.
In one respect, however, they depart from this spread. The human subjects are Anglo, European – apart from one story, there is little mention of Aotearoa as a Pacific nation.
Despite this, I find two I particularly enjoy are set elsewhere – a woman visits New York with her brother, “forty-two, but he could have been nine”; and in the very short How To Make A Bear, a woman talks to a pair of children in a train on the Piccadilly line. The best of human nature is reflected in these two tales.
Overall, they tend towards the vignette or slice-of-life style short story. Art is a recurrent and well-handled theme, a reflection no doubt of the author’s background as an artist. In broader subject matter, though there are such situations as broken marriages and family problems, they largely avoid the darker areas of human society.
Why, then, the dark and depressing cover, I wonder? In one tale, Ways of Riding a Storm, there’s a description of a picture that makes a woman shiver – “a skinny girl standing in a dark alley, teardrops spilling from wide googly eyes…it was ugly and downright depressing.” Not exactly the cover pic but close enough to accentuate the question why?
The stories in this collection are all of an ideal length to pick up and read in a break, or in bed – none too long. The beginnings pull the reader into each, and all reward the time spent.
Author: Vivienne Lingard
Publisher: Artistry Publishing