Monday 5 October 2020

Review by Laura Besley of "Seventy Percent Water" by Jeanette Sheppard


In the title story of her debut flash fiction collection, Seventy Percent Water, Jeanette Sheppard describes how a woman’s body transforms from the usual seventy percent water to a hundred percent after a relationship ends. ‘In the sea she reformed and swam away from the storm.’ 

Sheppard has a natural flair for the obscure. In 'Trumpets,' a woman who wanted her arms to be more ‘finely tuned’ ends up with trumpets for arms. On the surface this is a piece dealing with the practical repercussions of having arms that no longer bend and are made of cold metal, but in reality it’s about the deterioration of her relationship. ‘This morning, as he left for work, I saw him glance at my brass arms and swallow a sigh.’ 

Although there is a wide variety of stories, it is in her stories about old age and all the frustrations and fears that come with that – for both the older person, and those caring for them – that Sheppard truly shines. 

In 'Mirror in the Bird Bath,' the main character puts her mirror in the bird bath because ‘the new one at physio said you had to adapt to your circumstances’ and ‘she had dementia, she knew that, but it didn’t make her a fool’; rage ignites in 'Kindling' at the main character’s brother who takes no responsibility for the care of their mother; in 'Domestic Fairy Tale,' the main character’s ‘mother lays in her hospital bed, reading over and over the two sheets of A4 … attached to the cupboard doors explaining where she is,’ as her care plan is discussed, just out of earshot; 'The Last Time I visited My Mum' hits hard when the mother produces a photo, saying ‘Look, it’s my daughter!’ 

Seventy Percent Water is an accomplished debut flash fiction collection with rich imagery and beautiful language. 

About the reviewer

Laura Besley is a full-time mum to two young boys and squeezes her writing time into the bookends of her day. She has recently been listed by TSS Publishing as one of the top 50 British and Irish Flash Fiction writers with her story ‘On Repeat’ (Reflex Fiction). Her flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers, was published in March 2020 and her collection of micro fiction, 100neHundred, will be published in May 2021. She tweets @laurabesley

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