My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I begin this review by telling you that this compilation, this collection of stories about World War One is one of the better (if not the best) book I have read this year and I am greedy for more.
The authors that have contributed include: Melvin Burgess, Mary Hooper, Theresa Breslin, Sally Nicholls and Adele Geras. In addition to them we have Berlie Doherty, Anne Fine, Matt Whyman and Rowena House.
There are authors in that list who could sell me a trip to the dentist should it come with the promise of more of their writing.
So we begin with Theresa Breslin and her story: Shadow and Light. It is a story which is searing, as so many of them are, and made me breathless and cry and fall in love. It is the story of Merle, an artist, and to give you any more information would be to do a disservice to this great and awful story. It’s so good. Really. And it sets the tone for a collection full of grace and awe and heartache.
To highlight a few other joys (painful, painful joys) in this collection: Mary Hooper’s tearoom saga is a thing of loveliness, and something I would welcome so much more of. There’s an immense story here that fits into the short story form beautifully but god, I want more but I think that’s always the way when I read Mary Hooper.
I also loved Adele Geras’ contribution but I think I will always love how she writes romance. She catches it so gracefully, that moment where something innocent and unexpected turns into something great and blinding (“Blindly, like a plant in search of light, I turn my face up, and his lips are there, on my lips, and my senses and my heart and my body, every part of me, all my love, everything is drawn into the sweetness of his mouth”)
Whilst it feels odd to highlight only a few stories in a collection where they are all so hugely good, the last one I want to mention is Melvin Burgess’ story: Mother and Mrs Everington. Searing. Scarring. And full of a rage that we rarely see in stories of this nature. It is outstanding. Awful. A voice that spills from the pages and burns, burns, burns.
I love this collection. I love how contrary it is. It’s rather quietly designed, rather gently put together, and it’s only when you hold it and get to know itt that it explodes into vicious and powerful life. Rather metaphorical, really. Rather wonderful. A brilliant thing, this book. Don’t let it not be read.