Monday 1 February 2016
Used to Be by Elizabeth Baines
This anthology of short stories is split into 2 - "What Was, What Is" and "What May Be".
The first collection is very much about the past: a car journey that is fraught with tension as a nervous passenger is bombarded with stories by a driver who may, or may not, be paying enough attention to the road; revisiting places of youth and trying to find things that were landmarks; infatuations of youth that are not what they seem; the death of a stranger that means nothing; the story of extended family and the tugs of love and resentment with in it; and a ghost story - or is it?
The second part is about possibilities: an incident that causes a train to be late and some of the people affected by it; a woman reflects on a summer when she had to choose between safe boyfriend or risky artist; someone meets a person whose language she can't speak and questions what they want from them; what happens when someone starts falling over; when your career and life is going nowhere and there are choices to be made; a visit to the sea that leads to reflection on the future.
I found myself wondering where I had read stories so like a few of these before that it was distracting. Fortunately the acknowledgements in the back revealed all - Unthologys! That, in itself, says a great deal for the quality of the stories and writing in this collection. I am a huge fan of the Unthology collections and anyone who is part of any of those collections has to be worthy of a further read.
Each and everyone of these stories will give you cause to pause and think - and the last story is one of those "why did the author stop there leaving me to chose 'what next'" stories (possibly the worst way to end a book? Discuss).
A really great collection that you will enjoy, identify with, wish that worm hadn't got into your head - and each of these in equal measure.
Publisher - Salt Publishing
Genre - Adult fiction, short stories