Top positive review
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Intensity, Isolation and Laughing out Loud
on 14 February 2003
Why don't you stop talking. It's an instruction, not a question, taken from one of the most powerful stories in this collection. It isn't aimed at us readers, there'd be no need - the intensity of Jackie Kay's stories leaves you struggling for breath let alone speech.
From the first line, Kay's writing firmly pulls you a couple of layers down below comfort level. Most of the stories centre on private pain, impossible to show or share. Many of them feature women alone and isolated. All of them invoke strong emotions and unsettling thoughts. But they also make you laugh out loud, smile secretly, re-read phrases again and again for sheer joy. And then stay up until you've read all fourteen in an evening, knowing you want to save some, knowing you can't.
Kay is best known as a poet, and every word here is put in place with a poet's precision. Every layer of rhythm and meaning is carefully and confidently constructed, carrying you along like the subtlest of melodies.
Hard to believe this is Kay's first book of short stories and harder still to imagine what she'll do next.