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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Used To Be by Elizabeth Baines

Used To Be

It’s not often that I get asked to review a volume of short stories, so I was really pleased when Elizabeth Baines offered to send me a copy of this one.

One of the most appealing things about this collection is that, although all the individual stories are very different and cover different subjects, there is a real unity of theme to the book.

All the stories look at alternative explanations and viewpoints on things that have happened or are happening. They examine the nature of memory, the complexities of interpretation and the possibilities of alternate reality. The y also put the microscope on the art of storytelling itself.

A thread that appears and reappears is the notion that someone dying actually changes everything. In the author’s words, it is like ‘a hole punched in the universe’. The collection as a whole has a lot to say about the nature of life and death and everything in between.

For me there were several highlights. I loved ‘That Turbulent Stillness’ in which a woman sees herself as a Bronte heroine, only to discover it’s not all it was cracked up to be. In ‘Clarrie And You’ two sisters spend their entire lives misunderstanding each other. The reason for this, when it’s revealed, is both small and immeasurably huge. A very clever story. Another story that particularly resonated was ‘The Choice Chamber’ which shows a woman contemplating the choices she’s made in her life, and those she hasn’t made.

All in all, an enjoyable collection of well-chosen stories with a fascinating linking theme. Recommended.

Thanks very much to the author for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

1 comment:

Julie P said...

I see that short story collections are becoming more popular again, Helen. Thanks for reviewing this collection - very interesting.