In a remote Australian settlement a young wife with an untellable secret reluctantly invites her neighbour into her home. A Quaker spinster offers companionship to a condemned man in a Colorado jail. In the ice and snows of Siberia an office employee from Birmingham witnesses a scene that will change her life. At a jubilee celebration in a northern English town a middle-aged alderman opens his heart to Queen Victoria. A teenage daughter leaves home in search of adventure. High in the Cumbrian fells a woman seeks help from her father’s enemy.
Whilst I know short stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I have to say that they are mine. A good short story is, for me, also an incredibly clever piece of writing. It’s hard to get across an idea, an image, and character in a few pages and I admire anyone who can do it.
Carys Davies fall into this category with The Redemption of Galen Pike which took me all over the world in just over 130 pages and introduced me to some very interesting people. Each person I encountered was unique and well drawn with their own voices. They were people I fell in love with or found myself loathing, with stories that drew me in and, in one case, broke my heart just a little. This was The Taking of Bunny Clay, the story of a woman who leaves her home to earn money for her children by raising someone else’s.
The Creed and The Quiet weren’t far behind in tugging my heart strings looking at domestic abuse, misunderstandings, bereavement and loneliness. All were highly emotional and highly evocative with their descriptions of people and place, though each of these was very different (going from the Australian outbreak to the Welsh valleys).
Others were equally as vivid in my minds eye, such as Precious, though not as rooted in the real world. These I found harder to engage with, though more because of my personal reading preferences than the quality of writing. The same is true of a few that I felt were just too short, like Wicked Fairy; I just didn’t have enough time to connect to the characters, though I appreciated – again – the quality of the writing and the imagery.
Of the 17 stories there were probably four that didn’t click with me, that didn’t touch me in some way. That doesn’t seem like a bad “hit rate” in the grand scheme of things. Add to that the fact it’s been a week almost since I finished the book and some, like Bonnet (which features an imaginary Charlotte Bronte) and The Coat (which looks at enduring and unconditional love against all odds and society’s “evil eye”), have stayed with me as clear as day and I don’t think you can go wrong.
Which leaves me liking this book a lot – a recommended read.