Much as I love novels, I also really enjoy collections of short stories for the variety of styles and themes they offer. It's also easy to read a single story when I'm busy; it doesn't matter if I don't get back to the book for some time, I won't be losing the plot or forgetting the characters. Dip in, savour, move on.
Secondary Character is a collection of 28 stories by writers who identify with Wales (including me - see disclaimer at end; details of the launch event and my reading here). A variety of subjects, voices and genres. The writing is excellent throughout - I was often arrested by an image or way of wording things, which I usually jot down so I can revisit them later. Some of those in my pad as I glance through it now are:
“His body is a clatter-bone latticework on all fours.”
(Rhys Thomas, “Kolyma” - so suitable for a story full of hunger and cold.)
“It wasn’t exactly raining, but the moist air periodically liquidated itself.”
(Frances Hay, “A Bad Date”)
“Each month brought a new period of bereavement, a red morning to mourn.”
(Susie Wild, “Pocillovy” - making words work twice as hard.)
“I do have a few cousins going spare (car crash maybe?) but there is no way I could convince her that I am their next of kin, besides they’re all kind of wankers so let them rot in their hypothetical ditch.”
(Whyt Pugh, “The Big Send Off” - one of many bathetic knife twists.)
Although I enjoyed all the stories, I inevitably had personal favourites, no doubt different from the next person's (which is one of the fun things about anthologies). Without giving too much away, these ones made me think the most:
- Rhys Thomas, “Kolyma” - a striking setting for a story.
- Susie Wild, “Pocillovy” - really captures the lead character's headspace.
- Whyt Pugh, “The Big Send Off” - humorous and clever writing (though I originally thought the protagonist was female, which I preferred!)
- Shelagh Middlehurst “Woman In A White Room” - really captures a horrific experience.
- Barrie Llewelyn “His Shoes” - very human, very believable.
- John Lavin “A Ghost May Come” - haunting.
- Luned DeSimon “Fire” - didn't go the way I expected.
- Bethany Pope “Theft” - lovely writing.
- Thomas Stewart “Secondary Character” - realistic and understated, which serves the story well.
- Colum Sanson-Regan “Weybury Ridge” - all sorts of drama taking place there.
Disclaimer: One of my stories is included in this collection. Therefore I won’t comment on that tale (in the same way that I don’t rate my own novels). Also this review is nothing to do with personal gain - I have no financial tie to sales of the book.