Tuesday 22 September 2015

Review by Jennifer Morris of "Without Makeup and Other Stories" by Hannah Stevens

Hannah Stevens' pamphlet is available from Crystal Clear Creator's website

Each one of this collection of six short stories left me wanting to know more about its characters. Stevens tells us little about what lies on the surface of her protagonists but so much about their inner depth. She does this without sentimentality, refusing to tell us how to feel, and demonstrating a respect for her reader.

The pieces are laced with beautiful prose, allowing the reader to see the world in new ways. In The Noises of Being Torn, Stevens describes the emptiness of a collapsing relationship in the line, "You can’t tie someone to nothing and expect them to stay." At other times, she shows a deep understanding of human emotion and behaviour, describing how the cheated-on woman in the story decides "to bargain with the calendar for a bit more time" as people often do when a difficult change is imminent.

It is possible that the stories are linked, but this isn’t made clear, leaving the reader to decide. However, there is a common thread of self-destruction running through these stories. Alcoholism or alcohol as self medication is seen in four of the six stories and destructive or broken relationships feature in all but one. Death and violence are also featured throughout, sometimes just in the thoughts of the characters, for instance in Lilac Tree the protagonist wonders "what it would be like to be slapped and spat at."

On the title page, the writer states: "Because if you hadn’t asked the right questions, we’d never even know." In this collection of stories, Stevens gives us an extremely engaging glimpse of what can lie behind, "I’m fine thanks." She shows us the truths we hide when we are afraid of how things will unravel if we reveal ourselves Without Makeup.

About the reviewer
Jennifer Morris was born in Leicester and has lived here most of her life. She has a husband and two children and a mad dog called Florence. She enjoys baking and drinking red wine with her friends.

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