I’m a huge fan of flash fiction and short stories – so this collection was right up my street.
I know it’s been troubling some of you, and I’ve had many questions about it… what’s a STORGY?
It’s quite simple – Stories and Orgies that’s right, stories and loads of them all various shapes and sizes, themes and genres – if a book could some up what a STORGY is then it’s this one – How to Hold an Umbrella from Retreat West showcases the very best short stories and Flash fiction from some emerging and talented authors in one unique reading experience – and the two work majestically alongside one another.
The book details the winning stories of the 2019 Retreat West Short Story and Flash Fiction Prizes – and I enjoyed that the construction of the book as a whole, how a short story is followed by a flash piece and it is in this pacing the book just disappears before your eyes.
And its the sheer breadth of voices in this stunning collection that I love – there are some of my favourite short fiction / flash fiction indie authors in there; people like Hannah Storm, Emily Harrison, Jason Jackson – the list goes on… but there are also some new voices too and there is nothing I enjoy more than to discover new writers and championing them with the platform of STORGY!
The themes, topics and genres collated in the collection blend well and create a unique reading experience, one that will have you traversing many feelings on your way to the final story. But due to the number of stories in this collection and the brevity of some of these I’ll be keeping the review to a select few and won’t be going into too much detail on them either… because believe me the joy is in discovering these stories for yourself.
So here we go…
Sal by Emma Hutton – I LOVED this story about teenage angst and a serial killer. The tone is fabulous and our protagonist is one you can get on board with straight away. It appears that the story could almost be described as apocalyptic in tone with the birthing pains of the world taking centre stage, rain and huge sinkholes swallowing houses, people and the occasional dog, and then you throw into the mix murder – it’s all in there and makes for a stunning opening story. I also enjoyed the unsaid parts of the story that sew seeds in the readers mind as to what has happened and what might come.
Whale Watching by Louise Farr – This was a great story about body image and Farr delivers this with a protagonist I really enjoyed and would love to read more of. We get the initial trauma, the catalyst for what transpires, this is swiftly followed by the need to fill that trauma and the hopelessness that is all consuming, healing the hurt will take time and when this spirals out of control we can’t help but feel the pain when it comes and the hope that our protagonist clings to!
On The Death Of A Friend by Jason Jackson – I love the work of Jason Jackson and this is another stellar offering. On The Death Of A Friend is a sorrow-filled tale of grief and how it becomes all consuming, that is until you find a new way to work through it, once all the platitudes and sympathy card slogans have been slung – touching and honest and incredibly raw!
My Kind by Emma Hutton – A woman who is desperate to find ‘the one’ starts to bite off more than she can chew when she starts to become infatuated with the cards she has to write for a customer to go with the flowers she delivers – Mr. You-Know-Who has grabbed her attention with the crazy and dark messages he’s sending to a special someone and our protagonist decides to dig a bit to find this man who might be the one! A strange fetish is involved but creates a wonderfully odd tale of love and friendship, story with some serious bite and reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk’s work!
Cuba by Bruce Meyer – This story took me places from the comfort of my living room and I never had to leave me seat. Places that were familiar to me and the smells imagined by our protagonist are true and written with perfection. Each note is clear and crisp and even those things he describes that have no smell like silence and heat are detailed sublimely – I could even smell those things too! Such beautiful imagery, a sensory experience and I bloody loved it.
Buried by Emily Harrison – Emily Harrison is one of the most exciting writers that I follow, everything she writes and releases into the world I have to devour, she’s a shining light in the world of fiction and boy I can’t wait for her debut (whatever that will be). I loved this story from the opening to the very last line. Harrison has that uncanny ability in her work to make you feel for her characters and although this story is brief I was fully invested and again in flash the things unsaid are the most striking they add depth and feeling to the piece. This was heartrending and pure and beautifully accomplished – and the ending just tore my heart in two.
Mess of Love by Jason Jackson – Another story from Jason Jackson and this is a short story offering (and my goodness the man can write both flash and short fiction beautifully, which reminds me of the early works of George Saunders). I loved this story, and yeah as the title says it’s a mess of love – what love isn’t. A couple grow together, become entwined like tree roots and then set about tearing each other apart. Honest, frank and utterly beguiling – the main protagonists voice made my heart ache with sorrow and is a truly masterful piece of writing.
If you want to discover new writers whilst enjoying an array of fine tales in flash fiction and the short story form, How To Hold An Umbrella would be a mighty fine investment… a short book but one that packs a punch, support indie authors and indie publishing by grabbing a copy now! The stories by Emma Hutton, Louise Farr, Emily Harrison and Jason Jackson are worth the price of the book alone, trust me, you will not be disappointed.
How to Hold an Umbrella is published by Retreat West and is available here.
Emma Hutton, Sherry Morris, Louise Farr, Jason Jackson, Niamh McCabe, Timothy Boudreau, Bruce Meyer, Rhys Timson, Helen Eccles, Sherri Turner, James Northern, Reshma Ruia, Geoffrey Graves, Hannah Storm, Caroline Greene, Emily Harrison, Clare Zinkin and Jan Barker.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
Unlike many other Arts & Entertainment Magazines, STORGY is not Arts Council funded or subsidised by external grants or contributions. The content we provide takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce, and relies on the talented authors we publish and the dedication of a devoted team of staff writers. If you enjoy reading our Magazine, help to secure our future and enable us to continue publishing the words of our writers. Please make a donation or subscribe to STORGY Magazine with a monthly fee of your choice. Your support, as always, continues to inspire.
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