When I posted that beautiful passage from Sue Gee's new collection of short stories the other day, Margaret commented that she favoured novels over short fiction as there's more 'to get your teeth into'. I know exactly what Margaret means, and hers is a common preference, but I've been thinking about that bias as I've reflected on the stories which make up Last Fling. If a novel is the equivalent of a full meal, a short story - a good one - is a perfect canapé or appetiser: a single mouthful that displays all the chef's skill in terms of balance of flavours and textures; and so it follows that reading a collection such as Sue Gee's is like choosing the menu de dégustation at a starred restaurant - each individual part which makes up the whole has its own distinct integrity, and taken together they not only satisfy but successively delight.
Sue Gee's prose is marked by its clarity, and her new book exhibits that to fine effect. Every story is somehow turned to the light so that its characters' past, present and future are shown or reflected, and the internal weather of the lives we glimpse is subtly evident. Often, the subjects are artists, or the settings rural, and the mind's eye is given vivid images to take in; elsewhere, it's emotional insight and empathy which bring a scene to life and take our focus. Common themes are what was lost, or how and why happiness is always just out of reach, but there's also humour, and a typical delicacy to the writing which gives the collection resonance.
As is obvious from the above, I loved the book, but whether or not you're already a fan of Sue Gee's novels, don't wait for her next one, The Tiger of Tulsipore (due in 2012), read her here in concentrated form and savour the experience.