I’ve always had small hands. The rest of me isn’t very big, either, but my hands are almost as small as a kid’s, with spindly white fingers and nails like broken seashells. David likes this about me. That there’s something about me that hasn’t changed for all these years.
Ever since Cathy and David met as troubled teens, they’ve belonged together, even though Cathy has married another man and had a bunch of kids. When David comes back into her life, she abandons her family,and spends her days trying to make David happy. David loves her, but he also has fantasies about other women, and Cathy finds herself helping him to kidnap and murder them.
Based on the life of Catherine Birney. ‘Cathy’ is one of twelve short stories which make up The Love of a Bad Man. Each story imagines the life and motivations of the women who have loved famous ‘bad men’, from Serial killer David Birney, to Hitler, to Jim Jones of Jonestown infamy. The voices are brutally honest, sometimes bewildered, occasionally naive but always compelling, as readers are offered insight into the lives and motivations of the women who supported, enabled and endured the men in different measure.
Not hopeful reading, but satisfyingly compelling.
The Love of a Bad Man, by Laura Elizabeth Woollett
The art of a good short story is to provide the reader with a total experience in a form much more brief and concise than in a novel. Australian author Natalie Scott has developed this art to become a master of the form.
In Eating Out Again and Other Stories Ms Scott shares twenty stories which readers can savour individually, or devour in a few sittings.
And savour and devour are fitting words, for, as the title hints, there is a recurrent motif in the collection, of food being shared. Many of the stories take place in restaurants or cafes, with tensions and intrigues playing out over a table shared by the players.
In Kissy-Kissy a man meets his ex-wife in a restaurant to discuss their son. In The Loft, a woman reaches a deciding point in her marriage over dinner with her husband, and in An Apple From the Teacher, a teacher deals with a child who does not have lunch to bring to school. This recurrent theme is complemented with a selection of recipes from the stories included at the back of the book.
A second common thread is that of the challenges of aging. Characters in several of the stories are faced with the realisation that they are no longer young, and need to confront where they are in their lives. Many characters have been betrayed by other players and are facing the need to rely more on themselves.
Ms Scott’s first short story collection, Eating Out was the winner of the National Library Australian Book Award in 1997. She has also published novels for both adults and children.
Lovers of the short story will be impressed by the quality of this outstanding collection.
Eating out Again and Other Stories, by Natalie Scott
Otford Press, 2002