Thursday 17 October 2019

Review by Jon Wilkins of "Strange: Stories" by Shreya Sen-Handley

The one thing that reviewing for Everybody’s Reviewing has taught me, is that there are so many fantastic writers out there. Not being widely read beyond the crime genre I am not sure if I have been reviewing “names,” but what I have reviewed has been amazing. There is so much talent out there, most new to me. I have loved the challenge of reading out of my comfort zone and reading Strange: Stories was no different. 

This is a wonderful collection of short stories, mysterious, beguiling, heart breaking and realistic. I will concentrate on three stories, but I could have enthused about them all.

"Long in the Blue Tooth" may be a play on words, but how the words play is remarkable. I’m not sure how many twists and turns there are in this story. You think you are on track then you are kicked into another situation before falling for another until the denouement comes and you are sent flailing into a dystopian abyss. This is an incredible story, full of evil intent lingering over an apparently peaceful home for the elderly.

In "Lean on Me," Sen-Handley tells how a conman, Karan, inveigles his way into the life of Samrat and his mother. She thinks he loves her, but it is so much more complex than that. We have to try to work out who is leaning on whom, which is not easy. How people take advantage of others feelings is highlighted here in much more depth than I can describe in a few words, but it is sombre reading, well written.

Finally, "The Lust List": this was intriguing and right until the very end I had no idea of where it was heading. Indeed, in the denouement I am still unsure! It is the tale of a husband's infidelity, a man who suggests his wife takes other partners to cover his guilt at his betrayal of her. She goes on a business trip, flirts uneasily as this is not her scene, but then connects with a pair of strangers who follow her to her room. They whistle as they stroll down the corridor following her. She runs but leaves the door open. What happens next is down to our imagination. I flirted with the idea it was role play or if her husband would reappear - that it had all been a test; but what was it testing, her resolve or his or their marriage? That is the beauty of these stories. They ask questions of the reader. The reader can assume nothing, there is a twist to every tale, several twists in some cases. You really do have to read this collection.

About the reviewer
Jon Wilkins is sixty-three. He has a gorgeous wife Annie and two beautiful sons, and loves to write. He is a retired teacher, lapsed Waterstones’ bookseller and former Basketball Coach. He taught PE and English for twenty years and coached women’s basketball for over thirty years.  He has always loved books and reading.

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