I keep questioning , as I am writing my current reviews; Should I mention the strange world we are living in? Or is everyone sick to death of hearing about COVID-19 and do they just want to come places like book blogs for escape?
But I have come to the conclusion that any review is about my response to a book and my response is always going to affected by the context in which I read. For example in the last month I have abandoned more books that I have finished. My brain is struggling to cope, and so something has got to be pretty special to get me interested and keep me there. I strongly suspect that I would have continued and enjoyed those discarded books in normal times.
But these are not normal times, and so ignoring that fact seems pretty pointless to me.
But, what you may ask does this long winded justification have to do with She Clown By Hannah Vincent?
Well, to be honest finding a volume of well written and engaging short stories is always a welcome and wondrous thing but at time like this it is a life saver. The short, snappy but beautifully formed stories were just perfect for my current reading style. Like a delicious box of chocolates I could ration myself to grabbing one here and there as my work load and wandering attention allowed or I could gorge on a few given the inclination and opportunity.
She Clown is a relatively thin volume, containing 16 short stories. All the stories concentrate on the life of women, of all ages, social classes and races. But all have names that begin with ‘C’…
With some of the women I formed an immediate connection. Charlotte, for example, the hen pecked and suppressed daughter living with her mother in The Poison Frog. A story with a strong leaning towards the darkest of fairy tales, she is rescued by a frog prince in the most unusual way.
And Caro, the young working mother, exhausted, trying to keep everyone happy and finding her balm in work ( An Extra Teat)
Conversely, there are women that I actively disliked. Bella, for example, the rich, privileged mother, looking constantly to blame others for the things that go wrong in her life, biting her own child in a rage, made me recoil from the page! ( Granny’s Gun) . ( NB I know her name doesn’t begin with ‘C’ – but all becomes clear…read the book!)
But all of these women have a tale to tell. And that is the point.
Hannah Vincent has created a series of tales that are snapshots of women’s lives. These snapshots are a ‘warts and all’ portrayal and celebration of women. Not one women is held up as a saint. All are working within the boundaries of their lives and experiences, all shaped by their past, present and future. Each women is presented within their own social context and connections. Some seem trapped, but others show remarkable abilities to make subtle and sometime dramatic changes to their lives. Here there is no feeling of ‘one size fits all’ but a recognition and embracing of diversity.
The stories are, by definition short. In some cases the snapshot only provide the smallest glimpse of a situation, dilemma or lifestyle. Sometimes we see or feel a sense of resolution, sometimes we don’t.
The final story, Woman of the Year, brings the whole collection together. By taking each central character and putting them together in one story, one social situation, the author offers us further insight into each character but also strengthens and enhances her message of diversity and celebration
She Clown and other stories is a collection of short stories that that both challenges and comforts and one I would heartily recommend, especially in times when we could do with both these qualities in our lives.
Thank you Emma Dowson at Myriad Editions for my gifted copy.
P.S You can buy She Clown by clicking here