short fiction reviews

Both books are published by Freight Books, from whom I won three books!

Treats by Lara Williams

This is a debut collection of short stories that follow various characters (mostly women, but some men) through their daily lives. Unsurprisingly, the women are the ones who really shone through in this collection, for me. There are women who are gentle to others but not to themselves, those who are bitter and weary, and those who are the very opposite of gentle. Those who bite.

The writing is solid, at times, beautiful. Williams has a particular knack for last lines. Many of them hit you in the gut like a punch, or a first kiss. The situations are not new, but the detached tone gives the reader an almost scientific perspective upon them (but yet still maintaining a very honest and intimate understanding of the character). There is a fine balance within ‘Treats’ about what life is like – or what it should be. I found this fascinating – most especially so in my favourite story  within the collection, ‘A Lover’s Guide to Meeting Shy Girls, Or; Break Up Record’.

My one slight problem with the collection is that it does feel a little undergraduate-y. As one myself, I didn’t mind, but I wonder whether older readers might find this a bit overdone. However, that in no way stopped me enjoying the collection, which I found to be very accomplished, particularly for a debut work.

Any Other Mouth by Annalise Mackintosh

‘Any Other Mouth’ is a collection of short stories that follows the various experiences of Greta as she reflects upon her father’s death, her sexual encounters, and her diagnosis of BPD (borderline personality disorder).

I really enjoyed the fact that the short stories were interconnected. Because I went straight from ‘Treats’ to ‘Any Other Mouth’, at first I assumed that they weren’t, which has left me with the strange impression that through the character of Greta, various different stories are being told, all through one life. It is a fantastic reflection upon how one’s life experiences can change (or not change) people’s perspectives, especially of themselves.

About half of the stories are told in first-person: these tend to be fairly standard accounts of important events in Greta’s life. The other half are written in second-person, and are extremely well done. I have never read second-person like this before, and I very much doubt that I will again. It is somehow talks about grief and illness and a whole manner of things in a way that is both intensely personal and characteristic of Greta, and still universal. This particular feat is absolutely breathtaking.

I would highly recommend both of these works, but it is ‘Any Other Mouth’ that has firmly converted me into a lover of short stories.

 

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