The acclaimed Irish short story writer, Claire Keegan, has stated that, ‘the short story begins after what happens, happens.’ After the drama has passed is the territory the writer has to work within: a time, a place, and a context of emotional consequences where, after the water has been stirred up and settled, what was before, is not now.
The making of a short story into a beautiful art form is therefore a delicate and challenging craft. And Belfast-born Angela Graham has risen to that challenge, exhibiting in her debut collection, A City Burning, twenty-six stories which allow the reader to feel the emotional intensity of a range of characters as they stand at pivotal moments in their lives in the aftermath of personal tragedy. Continue reading Review of A City Burning – Nation Cymru→
“This is an exemplary collection illustrating the creative possibilities of the short fiction form… All the stories allowed me to feel the emotional intensity of a range of characters as they stand at pivotal moments in their lives in the aftermath of personal tragedy. This is due, I believe, to the innate understanding that Graham has for the ‘stuff’ of the short story: suggestion rather than statement; rising tension rather than high drama; the power of the unsaid; and the realisation that endings are not neat and tidy and tied up!” Jane Fraser (The Lonely Crowd)
“a kind of clarity of languag… that rings off the page… a voice that feels completely new and fresh… Graham’s language has a searing quality yet also a humour about it that is genuinely hard to forget long after reading. Very highly recommended – I can’t wait to see what she does next.” Kate Hamer (The Lonely Crowd)
A very positive verdict in The Irish Examiner from Sue Leonard
Short, sharp and sometimes shocking, these wonderful stories truly pack a punch.
Sue’s long-running weekly profile Beginner’s Pluck offers a snapshot of a new writer and their debut work.
There’s a strong theme of witness in these 26 stories, which are set in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Italy. The characters face different challenges, from a failed marriage to eulogising a hated terrorist, but each of them is at a moment of change, needing to reassess their beliefs, or image of themselves.
In an enjoyable interview with Sue she asked what I would be ‘in another life’. To my own surprise I said I would like to be an expert ballroom dancer. That will surprise those who know me but it’s true! I don’t watch Strictly but, yes, sweeping rhythmically around a floor is the life I haven’t had… yet.
Prof Diana Wallace researches women’s writing, with special interests in historical fiction; Welsh writing in English and Modernism and the Gothic. She is co-director of the Centre for Gender Studies in Wales and Leader of the English Research Unit at the University of South Wales. Her review appears on the website of the Centre for the Study of Media and Culutre in Small Nations at the University of South Wales.
How can writers respond to sudden, even exponential, change? It can take a decade, as it did after the first world war or 9/11, for novels and memoirs to catch up as writers process traumatic events. And readers, time-pressed and battered by 24-hour news, may turn to genre fiction for the comfort of familiar plot lines and predictable endings. The short story, on the other hand, can turn on a sixpence to give us a snapshot of our crises in real time. Compressed, intense, often challenging, some of the most powerful examples of the form have come from writers on the so-called margins: women, immigrants, people from ‘small nations’ such as Wales and Ireland.
Angela Graham’s assured and compelling debut collection, A City Burning, ranges across Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy. It offers 26 brief stories, most no more than a few pages (one a mere page and a quarter), which turn their forensic flashlight on a moment of change when a character has to make a choice. Continue reading Review of ‘A City Burning’ by Prof Diana Wallace→
I read an extract from the story Coasteering in which a middle-aged woman and her Ulster Scots-speaking coasteering instructor venture far out along the coast at twilight:
‘Dinnae ower-think it!’ Alec urged, and then repeated himself….
I loosened the cuffs of the waterproof jacket that added a layer to the battered old wetsuit he’d provided. Seawater gushed out past my wrists. I poised myself, leapt − an un-timeable gap − and was smothered in crashing bubbles and noise and resistance, then broke upwards into air and the push and pull of the sea. This was what I’d wanted, to be out beyond the little beaches and rock-strewn shores; to be out of my depth but safe; to be gripped by the sea’s power but not at its mercy. I respect the sea. I fear it….Continue reading On ‘Your Place And Mine’, BBC Radio Ulster→