About the Book
That dandelion. A flash of stubborn yellow in a dark box of space. It had promised sunshine but had tasted sour.
Artefacts. A dandelion. A mayfly. A family, bereft. Items and mementos of a life, lived hard and with love, or long, empty, bitter.
In these sharply drawn and unflinching short stories, Rebecca Burns unpicks the connection between the lives we live and what we leave behind.
Format: ebook (154 pages) Publisher: Odyssey Books
Publication date: 30th September 2017 Genre: Short stories, literary fiction
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All the stories in the book are well-crafted but, as is often the case with short story collections, some engaged me more than others.
For example, ‘On This Day’ is the unsettling story of a man’s response to the anniversary of past events. In the title story, ‘Artefacts’, a woman senses the emotions of others, even complete strangers. And in ‘The Bread Princess’, bonnets worn over the years by young women taking part in a local custom give insights into social changes.
I also really enjoyed ‘The Last Game – August 1914’ in which a match by the local cricket team, depleted by these who have already joined up, is full of allusions to war. So the cricket pitch becomes the ‘arena of conflict’, the captain swings his bat like a weapon, each man in the team knows his place and his role and, assessing the opposition, the father of one of the players remarks, “This should be over quickly.”
However, the standout story for me was ‘The Greatcoat’ in which a young man returning from the war has conflicting feelings about having to hand back the coat he was issued with. For him, it evokes memories of suffering and loss but also of comradeship and duty. In an example of one of the striking images scattered throughout the collection, he sees the coat lying across a chair in his bedroom. ‘One arm was thrown to the side and it dangled, empty, like a ghost. A dying coat.’
Artefacts and Other Stories is an intriguing collection exploring the feelings, memories and emotions associated with everyday objects. I received a review copy courtesy of the author and Odyssey Books.
About the Author
Rebecca Burns is a novelist and short story writer. Her two story collections, Catching the Barramundi (2012) and The Settling Earth (2014), were both longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize, the UK’s only award for short story collections. Her debut novel, The Bishop’s Girl, was published in 2016. She lives in the Midlands, UK, with her husband and young family. (Photo credit: author website)
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