A good short story is much more than just a story that is short in length, because such a story must impart something that goes far beyond the small number of words and pages it is allocated. It must leave the reader contemplating not just the events of those pages, or even the fates of the characters, but something more reaching – how the story relates to life beyond that plot.
John Clanchy is recognised as a master story-teller and the seven stories offered in this collection all leave the reader with that impact. They are left pondering the fate of the characters and the moral dilemmas they face, or nodding in agreement that Clanchy has portrayed life exactly as it is.
In Radinsky’s Will a woman contemplates the morality of accepting a handsome inheritance from a man she never met and whose funeral she attended by accident. When she turns it down, she is left contemplating a completely different moral dilemma. The reader, too is left making such a contemplation. What would they do in a similar situation. Is there a right answer to such a dilemma?
In Leaper a man faces another dilemma. Involved in an accident, he is unable to stop or provide answer afterwards for fear that an unrelated secret will be revealed. Again, the reader is left contemplating how a twist of fate can leave someone terribly exposed.
Whilst each of the stories is very different in subject matter and in theme, references to Vincent Van Gogh run through the collection, linking them with the title Vincenzo’s Garden. One of the stories deals directly with van Gogh, telling the story of his final days and his funeral through the eyes of Adeline Ravoux, the girl in the blue dress who appeared in many of Van Gogh’s works. In another story, the central charaacer visits the convent at Saint Remy where Van Gogh once lived. Other references are less direct, including the naming of the gardener Vincenzo in the title story. The author seems to be inviting the reader, through these links, to make other, more subtle connections.
This is a collection to be savoured. Readers will want to enjoy each story separately and to read and reread at leisure.
Vincenzo’s Garden, by John Clanchy
Univeristy of Queensland Press, 2005
Having the run of the school at night should be fun, but Kelly isn’t so sure. School isn’t the same as it used to be. There are no students here – only herself, her friend Sally and the head girl. And, late at night another visitor -an angry boy called Jeremy.
Kelly’s story Songs for the Dead is the first in this anthology of ghostly tales by West Australian author Glyn Parry. Other stories feature big brothers who continue to bully the living even after death, midnight rides on ghost trains and flights that seem to be bugged.
These stories, blending the magical and the macabre will appeal to young readers and leave them thinking.
Invisible Girl Stories, by Glyn Parry
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, May 2003
Reviewed by Tash Hughes
Shadow Alleyis a collection of short stories relating to crime and involving young investigators or witnesses.
Editor Lucy Sussex approached a number of authors for this book, requesting a crime story involving youth. For those authors with an existing detective character, she requested a retrospective story of the character, although only two such stories are included. Fans of Phryne Fisher and Verity Birdwood will enjoy insights into the development of these sleuths.
For each story, Sussex introduces the author first with a brief bio of their work. After the story, the writer includes an afterward relating to the story and this adds interest to the collection.
Each story is unique in both style and content; most are gripping page-turners. The collection includes work by Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, Jennifer Rowe and Jenny Pausacker. Although she is a published writer herself, none of Sussex’s work appears in the anthology.
As a collection, the book is not only about crime but also about youth finding their identities and learning about how other people act and react to situations. Sussex wanted the book to balance the power and understanding of detectives with the powerless and confusion often felt by teenagers.
Great reading and very entertaining.
Shadow Alley, by Lucy Sussex (ed)
A girl lost in the outback, a group of boys raising a pair of undies on the school flagpole, an Italian youth migrating to Australia – subjects as diverse as the young writers who chose them. What binds these stories however, is their quality and the fact that they were written for entry into the annual Tim Winton Young Writers Competition.
Following the success of the first compilation of prize-winning stories from the contest, Destination Unknown (2001), Life Bytes brings together 13 first class stories. At times it is hard to remember the stories were written by primary aged children – with both the subject matter and the writing style often showing a maturity unexpected in pre-teens.
The Tim Winton Award, sponsored annually by the City of Subiaco, offers children across the Perth metropolitan area the chance to develop and demonstrate their creative writing abilitites. Life Bytes, showcasing some of the best entries submitted in the award’s ten-year history, is a great read, especially for those who work with young people.
Editor Alwyn Evans is a contest judge and editor and author of children’s books.
Life Bytes, edited by Alwyn Evans,
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002