Book review: Not So Stupid! by Malorie Blackman

“The Devil seethed with fury; to be summoned in this way was galling but he had no choice.  The Book of Old had been found and the invocation spell had been executed correctly.

‘Your wish?’ he roared.

Mrs Engell, who stood before him, did not flinch.  The sight and sound and smell of the Devil was nothing compared to what she had been through in the last twenty-three years of marriage …”

(From ‘Detail’)

As a child and then as a teenager I read a lot of books by Malorie Blackman and enjoyed them all.  Her stories are exciting, her characters are genuine, and I always felt that her writing voice was speaking to me as to another adult, rather than talking down to a child.

This collection of short stories is one which will never leave my book shelf.  I’ve re-read them many times and they never get dull.  The first story – ‘Skin Tones’ – begins as an imagining of life after death in a sort of hate-filled Purgatory, and the second –‘Dad, Can I Come Home?’ – is set at the end of a futuristic outer-space war, so you quickly become accustomed to expecting the unexpected and opening your mind to the increasingly inventive stories thrown your way.

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Book Review: The Temptation of Jack Orkney: Collected Stories Volume 2 by Doris Lessing

The Temptation of Jack Orkney by Doris Lessing“Her name was Hetty, and she was born with the twentieth century.  She was seventy when she died of cold and malnutrition…. Her four children were now middle-aged, with grown children.  Of these descendants one daughter sent her Christmas cards, but otherwise she did not exist for them.  For they were all respectable people, with homes and good jobs and cars.  And Hetty was not respectable.  She had always been a bit strange, these people said, when mentioning her at all.”

‘An Old Woman and her Cat’

I always find it’s more of a challenge to discuss short story collections than a full novel.  There’s a lot more to talk about, but inevitably you’ll like some more than others – do you rate a collection on its average content or on the merits of your favourite, or even least favourite?

There were a few stories in this collection, such as ‘An Old Woman and her Cat’ and ‘The Thoughts of a Near-Human’, which I loved and which touched me.  ‘An Old Woman and her Cat’ is, in essence, about the homelessness and loneliness of an old lady abandoned by society.  ‘The Thoughts of a Near-Human’ is narrated by a Yeti-like creature who is fascinated by the human inhabitants of a remote village and attempts to make contact with them, with tragic consequences.  Both stories appealed to me because they delve deep into an exploration of human nature and society’s pack-like rejection of the abnormal.

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Review: Last Evenings On Earth by Roberto Bolaño

I’ve never read any of Chilean author Roberto Bolaño’s raved-about novels (2666 or The Savage Detectives) and yet I had already formed an opinion of what to expect from his writing.  I was anticipating heavy prose, full of political talk and a call-to-arms to rebel against authority.  However, having raced through this collection of his short stories, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case at all.

His writing focuses on the smaller details and issues – I would say mundane, but an exile’s version of mundane is not the same as that shared by most people – of daily life, yet the reader senses a lot more simmering below the surface.  More

The Doll: Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier

Ever since I read Rebecca I’ve been half in love with Daphne du Maurier.  I’ve read quite a lot of her work and she’s such a good story-teller!  Recently I was overjoyed to discover that a new collection of her early short stories had been published in May this year.

‘The Doll’ and the other stories included here were almost all written between 1926 and 1932, and were originally published individually in magazines and journals in the UK and America.  This is the first time they have been published as a collection, and some were only rediscovered very recently. More