First Review of ‘A City Burning’

The first review of my debut short story collection (from Seren Books) – by Inez Lynn, former Chief Librarian of the London Library. From New City magazine – highlights:

Good writing is compelling. Each of these twenty-six stories takes you out of your own skin and into the lived experience of another.  They deal with the complexity of human life, faith, emotions and relationships seen through the eyes of narrators with distinct, memorable voices:

a young girl trying to act constructively in 1980s Belfast; a man from the Welsh valleys examining the furniture of the lately dead; an actor reflecting on the part she is playing and its echoes in her own life; a priest filled with resentment; a man struggling with the aftermath of a church shooting in Fermanagh; the widow of a bus driver lost to Covid-19; a man recalling the night his marriage almost ended; a woman seeing one more hospital consultant; families gathered around the dying; someone waiting at a station for the return of freed prisoners in post-war Europe.

The writing is sparse. Every word is telling:

Many of the stories have a cinematic quality, creating images of a moment in time, giving a sense of that vivid awareness of place that you often have when something significant happens to you. For these are liminal moments, moments of change and transformation, moments when you realise you have been mistaken and begin to think anew, to try to put things right, to understand what love is, and what it is not.

There are no easy answers, no answers at all sometimes, beyond an awareness of the truth of a situation. There’s a fierceness in the writing as befits the injustices, the brutality – strong language for strong themes – and the cost of choosing to love is not hidden:

But there’s also lyricism, a feel for the rhythm of speech and an ability to capture natural beauty…

These stories are not comfortable and won’t be for everyone. But they are honest, searing, insightful and very, very good.