SMALL VOICES, BIG CONFESSIONS
Edited by Chris Lee Ramsden
Reviewed by David Hebblethwaite
Small Voices, Big Confessions is an anthology of fiction by members of the EditRed online writing community. The stories are diverse in subject and setting, though unfortunately with correspondingly variable quality.
The name most familiar to readers of this website will probably be Aliya Whiteley, who contributes one of the book's most enjoyable stories, Fate, Freddo and the Number Four. Sylvia is an actress who has just moved to London and is determined to get her big break. Today she's auditioning for an advert which features Freddo, a polar bear with a hatred of the number four--and the audition will change her life in more ways than she could possibly imagine. Typically of Whiteley, this story combines a humorous surface with a serious heart, and doesn't compromise on either.
Several of the pieces in the anthology are very short, but do their jobs well. For example, Eoin Beckett contributes The Truth, In Brief, Glimpsed Through the Rocks of a Half-Finished Bourbon, an intense character study of two people at a party that has greater impact than its two-and-a-bit pages might lead one to expect. In contrast, Matano Lipuka's Look Who Just Dropped In, about a mother's remains being returned to Kenya, is more amusing, with a satirical bite.
Not all the stories are entirely successful, however. Interfaces (a love story) by Bernadette Klubb is about a couple in love who, unknowingly, attract the attention of fairies when out walking. Whilst some of the prose is beautiful, I found the conclusion unsatisfying and the fairies themselves quite irritating. Tom Sykes' Super Fly Tipper deals with a firm which, as the title suggests, is involved with illegal waste-dumping. It rattles along quite nicely to begin with, but the ending introduces an element that hasn't previously been hinted at, and undermines the story as a whole by being too daft for its own good.
One thing that's quite common throughout Small Voices, Big Confessions is a strength in creating voice and viewpoint. Potting Soil by Teri Davis Rouvelas is about a woman who leaves sacks of soil outside her door for reasons that the narrator can't fathom--but we readers can guess. The tale is pleasingly humorous, and the distinctive narration feels more like the voice of a real person than a fictional character. And Aoife Mannix effectively portrays a child's-eye view of the adult world in The Costume, where the relationship between young Jimmy's parents has broken down--but the boy doesn't really understand, and is more concerned with his Hallowe'en costume.
Reading this review back, I suspect I've underplayed the proportion of less successful stories in Small Voices, Big Confessions a little. But then, it is an anthology that you'll have to cherry-pick from to find the best pieces. Rest assured, though, that they are there--and are worth seeking out.
Small Voices, Big Confessions edited by Chris Lee Ramsden. EditRed paperback, 216pp, £8.99 plus P&P. Available from amazon.co.uk or direct from the publisher.
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