For a masterclass in the technique and art of the short story, look no further than this collection.
Follow up to Saunders' `Brother What Strange Place is This?' (2004) these 26 short stories, often very funny, are loaded with powerful, sometimes dazzling, sometimes haunting imagery. The poetry of Saunders writing impresses. In `Sunburst Guitar' as a well-loved guitar is removed from its velvet-lined case the `blue plush gave up the Hofner with a disapproving sigh, a breath of wax polish and oiled steel.' In `Bonny Craigellan' the killer in prison turns artist, his painting of B Wing from the prison garden his favourite, `Summer grew up all around me....The cellblock wall, with its ash grey stones and steel-barred windows, loomed through a landscape...of rosebushes, of fruit trees. A prediction, I like to think, of the day when nature decides to take the place back, trees punching blue holes in the roof and wild flowers showing bright in the rubble.' Memorable stuff.
The characters won't leave you in a hurry either. They are mostly recognisable as those we've met, or feel we know: the young Betsy, determined to celebrate the sale of her first painting; the well-endowed La Hooters McDade; the fading old man Tilston. Saunders has a real understanding of people `on the edge' whether of society, of a breakdown, a break-up, or on the brink of death itself. The stories are very much their stories and even if you don't feel you know the type of character at the beginning of each story the unique poetic images Saunders uses to describe them will ensure you remember them, as you will this collection, for a very long time indeed.