Seventy years is a long time right?
It’s in fact a lifetime, but what we have with An Inheritance is a gripping novella-in-flash that takes us on this journey at breakneck speed, as we flit through seventy years and four generations of family life – with all its love, grittiness, despair, hope, loss, grief and evolution.
Diane Simmons delivers a story that is heartfelt, desperately hopeful and heartrending – the way Simmons is able to move the reader in so few words just showcases what a master she is of the flash fiction genre, I’ve been moved countless times by longer fiction and it takes a real powerhouse of a writer to move me in so few, she made me feel things I’d not expected, had me reminiscing about my own family and their chaotic and crazy ways, had me feeling hope when there was nothing but hopelessness (the only other novella-in-flash I’ve read before that moved me in such a way was Adam Lock’s Dinosaur – check that out too).
I think the allure of this book is the subject matter that is beautifully and brutally portrayed in a chronological order, we see a family grow, develop, then get torn apart piece by piece – but it’s not all depressing as there are moments of joy, moments of peace, moments of reconciliation. It’s this that makes the novella-in-flash such a wonderful read, because we all know that family life is messy, we all know of past hurts, pains, struggles, deaths and the quest for belonging in our own families – and Simmons renders these with such exquisite prose it’s impossible to look away or come away from reading without being changed in some way.
The novella-in-flash works so well and was a great choice to tell this story – because when we do reminisce about our lives and our families they are like little snapshots of our lives, tiny fragments of memories, or the pieces that we don’t want to give too much credence too, or reveal in to much detail because those parts of our lives hurt so much, so in turn they remain just that, snapshots of a life – and given the seventy years and four generations in An Inheritance, this chosen format gives us a glimpse into this family, but quite possibly our own.
An Inheritance is an examination of family life under the microscope of time – we see how lives can be changed by the simplest of actions, how families can grow apart and destroy themselves from within – An Inheritance is a fabulously woven collection that moves us to feel many emotions, whether we want to or not, and causes us to reflect or face our own familial differences or circumstances. Powerful and beautiful in all the right ways!
An Inheritance is published by V. Press and is available here.
DIANE SIMMONS studied creative writing with The OU. She is a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day and a director of the UK Flash Fiction Festival. She has been a reader for the Bath Short Story Award, an editor for Flash Flood and has judged several flash competitions, including Flash 500 and NFFD Micro. Widely published and anthologised, she has been placed in numerous short story and flash competitions. Finding a Way, her debut flash collection on the theme of grief, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019 and was shortlisted in the 2019 Saboteur Awards. An Inheritance, a historical flash fiction novella, came out with V. Press in 2020. Her website is at https://www.dianesimmons.co.uk/.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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