Publication Date: 11th April 2019
When my good bookish pal Clare from Years Of Reading Selfishly brought this short story collection to my attention it made me feel quite emotional.
My lovely Dad who is no longer with us used to say ‘It’s gone dark over Dick’s mothers’ whenever the sky looked gloomy. He was called Bill….
Apparently the phrase is one that developed in the Stoke potteries area, often uttered by the working classes. Which was another huge draw for me to this book. The stories are all told by the northern working classes, many of which are matriarchal voices. I ADORE this!
The very first story ‘Barmouth’ tells of a working class family’s road trip to their annual caravan holiday. Within the first 3 pages I had read things which sparked memories of my own childhood holidays. It was like a warm comforting blanket despite the story going on to become not so chirpy!
Each of the subsequent stories are told through strong working class northern voices, be that matriarchs, children, men. Some of them are written in a northern dialect and come across as conversational, a lot of them told in the first person perspective which makes the reader feel like they are being drawn into a secret conversation.
Interestingly one of the stories Dirty Laundry Is written in the second person which is a perspective I don’t often come across but which I really enjoy, I think the last time I encountered this was with Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary.
The general themes of the stories in this collection are of normal family struggles, secrets held over a number of years and the difficulties encountered in normal family life when lines of communication breakdown.
I often say that with short stories I don’t always ‘get’ them but I enjoy the way they make me feel. With these stories there was a lot of reading between the lines and making assumptions about what could have happened, I love this. I enjoy a story that makes me think. The exception with this collection was a story called Happenstance which is a back and forth unpunctuated dialogue between two people in a bar. This was the one story that I didn’t quite gel with.
These stories are in equal parts comedic and achingly sad. The Cherry Tree and Smear Campaign really stand out as extremely poignant stories in my mind. Good examples of the types of stories I went away to think about and ponder.
Dripping with nostalgia and a real sense of place, told through the down to earth northern voice, this is a collection about real folk and real struggles that will always have my heart, not least for the stunningly engaging writing, but also for the memories it stirred for me.
Thank you do much to the publisher for my advanced review copy.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx