Another collection by Ali Smith full of good stories, but some better than others. I preferred this collection to 'Other Stories and Other Stories' as a whole, but still felt that some of the warmth and depth of character of 'Free Love' was still not there. The tone of many of the stories was slightly surreal and quirky - sometimes this worked brilliantly, as in the opening story, about the man trying to build a boat out of copies of 'The Great Gatsby', or the story about the woman who believes she encounters Death at King's Cross, and then decides to walk from Letchworth to Cambridge when her train gets stuck (bizarrely, I'm convinced I was on the train that Smith is talking about, back in 2001!). At other times, the surrealism seems a little self-conscious, as in the tale of the woman who falls in love with a tree (and digs up the living room floor, planning to steal it and plant it there) or 'Scottish Love Songs', in which a ghostly pipe band pursue first an old woman and then a young girl. In a way, I think Smith is at her strongest when really working at observing individuals - the three sisters in 'Paradise', the woman remembering her childhood in 'The Book Club', and the woman roaming an art gallery in 'The Shortlist Season'. I prefer this to the more wacky stories - but then, this is a personal preference.
On the whole, an excellent collection, which I'd give 4.5 stars too if the option was there.