While Vanessa Gebbie’s tales certainly fit the first part of this by being invitingly easy to dip into, it’s far more difficult to dip out of her short stories. In a few, brief beautifully spare paragraphs Vanessa has the power to utterly transport you, immersing you in lives that ring out with authenticity and enmeshing you in their emotions – all without a touch of sentimentality.
I was initially a little put off by the fact this collection is solely focused on war, as the subtitle Echoes of Conflict testifies. But far from being bleak or terrifying or gory, the tales shimmer with humanity – people grieve and remember and regret, but with such elegance that you’ll find yourself savouring the passages like the very best poetry. In Maiba’s Ribbon a boy recalls the day his brother lost his hands, in The Wig Maker a woman shares three truths, the last being the most heart-rending. In Cello Strings and Screeching Metal a musician explains why champagne bubbles transport her back to a single, shocking moment in time. Continue reading