Are You She? Review
Are You She? is a collection of short stories edited by Lesley Glaister and published by Tindal Street Press. The slim volume contains two stories from each of four women.
The opening story, Lasiren by Mandy Sutter introduces us to a small child who needs the help of a mermaid to conquer her fear of water. There were moments when the story lost me because I ceased to believe that the child was so young. And again, two consecutive paragraphs, both beginning with something seen “by the base of one of the trees”, called my attention to the inexperience of the writer, particularly in the editing department. Super story, though, and from someone with more than her fair share of talent.
Sidura Ludwig’s story, Ten Ways to Better Customer Relations, introduces us to Cathy, who runs a small card shop, handmade jewellery, scented candles, some body products, things to make people feel good. Only by the end of the story did I realise she had been showing us a mirror filled with loneliness. This is a theme recollected again in Ludwig’s second story, Interlake Evergreens, where a man caught between a wife with Alzheimer’s and a new lover, tries to maintain his own sense of self.
Polly Wright can write:
I catch her staring at me while I’m unwrapping the mini chocolate swiss rolls.
I say ‘What?’ and she says, ‘That’s a nice top, dear.’ But I know that’s not what she’s thinking. She’s thinking I look a mess. Mum keeps up standards in the clothes department. She’s wearing her pleated skirt and Aran cardigan and paisley green and cream scarf tied in a knot. Her shoes are very good. Rounded court design with a blocky sort of heel in rich tan. She’s had them for years, but they’ve kept their shape. Mum’s a great advert for the shoetree.
Wright’s Shropshire Gold looks at the long aftermath of an abortion and teeters, unfortunately, because her writing is strong, on the wrong side of that thin line which separates inhibition from sentimentality.
This is the voice of Myra Connell, the fourth contributor to this collection:
There are family photographs all over the house, but they are gathered, as if on a shrine, on these two walls facing each other across the stairs. Several show Heidi at her wedding: she wears a short salmon-pink shift dress in a heavy brocade. It has a high neck and long sleeves, and it doesn’t suit her. She looks ungainly, and the dress seems an odd choice; but in another picture it is clear, from the way he has his hand on her belly and she looks up at him so proudly, that she was pregnant at her wedding. In all of these photos she looks outrageously happy, she smiles and smiles and smiles.
I love that: outrageously happy. If you’re going to use an adjective, save it for something like that.
Myra Connell also provides the key story in this volume with the last narrative in the collection, a brave story set around the immediate aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Centre, entitled, Hero.
People are still out, walking and jogging and skating. But everything has sobered up. The things that seemed fun before, the things that people chased hoping they would make them happy, the gadgets and the pretty clothes and the brand-name trainers, and the shows and the bars and the balls games, all that no longer seems to matter.