Three Men on the Edge by Michael Loveday is a novella-length book comprised of three short novellas-in-flash, the stories of three men: Denholm, Gus and Martyn – all struggling with life.
The first story, ‘Cause for Alarm,’ explores the marriage of Denholm and his wife, Joan. Through the use of swans – birds which are renowned to mate for life – Loveday gives us some insights into the relationship. When Denholm’s friend shows him ‘an image of a swan pair, necks wound tight round each other,’ Denholm doesn’t see romance, but instead shrugs and says, ‘“Could be the blur … but it looks to me like they’re suffocating each other.”’ Later on he muses that ‘if he’d known, really known, how much marriage is one drowning person trying to push another under, he might not have risked it.’
In the second story – ‘The Invisible World’ – there are twelve micro fictions, one for each month in a year of Gus’ life following the loss of his wife whose absence he still feels acutely. He is stuck in a quagmire of grief he cannot, or does not want, to find a way to move on from. ‘There’s a veil between him and the world that will not lift, and to tear it down seems a betrayal. Why is it still not consolation – witnessing these swans, these shadows, this sky?’
The final and longest novella-in-flash is ‘Chewing Glass’ wherein Martyn navigates relationships with Anja and Rob. ‘[W]ith every relationship, the miniature sculptor works her hammer and chisel on the stone lump of your heart. If you’re really lucky, Martyn thinks, a man survives well enough to be left in the end with something recognisable.’
Throughout the book, Loveday supplements the starkness of these men’s lives with the stark beauty of nature. This adds, I feel, to the presence of a certain level of resignation, but also resilience. Because life is brutal, and all you can do is live it.