Flash by Joyce Stranger

Flash by Joyce Stranger front cover

Flash by Joyce Stranger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been longing to reread some Joyce Stranger for a long time. I wasn’t sure which title I wanted to start with, or indeed what many were about, but I wanted her back in my life. And when it came down to it, I couldn’t quite remember why. I could remember the sensation of them; the way I devoured them, in that slightly giddy drunken haze you do when you’re a kid and you find somebody new to read and realise how prolific they have been, years before you were born, how much you have left to read of their work. How it might never end.

I remember one of her books, vaguely, about being something to do with shire horses and another about foot and mouth disease (a mystery to childhood me), and then there was this. Flash. A book about a dog, a book that is bluntly adult in fashion and yet somehow rendered for children . I was intrigued by it and so I got it, and I read it, and I remembered just how grimly honest Joyce Stranger can be. This is not the happiest of stories; things do not go well.

And yet Flash is beautifully, brilliantly written. It wears its age heavily at points, and its agenda also, but Stranger is such a good, vivid, wild writer. She’s not what I would call a modern writer, perhaps even back in the 70s, there’s something else here and I wonder if it’s almost naive. I mean naive very particularly here; innocent, natural, unaffected, because I think that’s what this story is. Stranger commits a thousand literary sins; she’s fond of an omniscience which allows her to see inside the head of every character, sometimes to weary effect, and she’s fond of a diverting segue that sort of (sorry Joyce) isn’t.

But Flash works. I can see why it got published, why it sold, why Stranger became who she was. There’s something of Enid Blyton’s determined power about it that carries it through the dull parts, and Stranger works, so hard, to get her point across. Occasionally it falters, occasionally it get super dull, but it works. Grimly, bluntly, naively, this works. It’s not pretty nor is it perfect nor is it kittens and roses and rainbows, but it works.

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4 comments

  1. I used to love her stories and I still do enjoy re-reading some of them now – all the points you make in this post pretty much sum up both what I do and don’t like about her writing!

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