For far too long the short story has been seen by some as a lesser form of fiction. The novel is considered the pinnacle for a writer, and recently the novella has had a welcome renaissance, but the shorter form is often underrated and overlooked by readers.
However, at its very best, a short story collection can give you the greatest insight into a writer, allowing for multiple and disparate characters and themes which would make little sense in one story – no matter how long. James Kelman, Janice Galloway, William McIlvanney, A.L. Kennedy – there are arguments to be made that their short fiction shows these writers at their best.
Dilys Rose’s latest collection of short fiction, Sea Fret, is one of the finest I have read for some time. The stories work both individually and as one, with Rose managing to imbue them with a rare empathy and humanity.
She captures the awkwardness and interest of travelling with strangers in ‘Are You Sure You Want To Talk To Me?’; a one-sided rivalry between writers is played out in ’Signed Copy, As New’; thoughts of sweet revenge are pondered over a single fag break in ‘Smoke-Long Story’; reality versus a mythologised facade of working in the food industry is made clear in ‘The Blue Beyond’; and important words remain unsaid between mother and daughter during the deceptively complex act of buying a coat.
The majority of these stories have women as their central characters and concern friendships, family, work, health, travel, tears, and tumult, from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. These are warm and truthful tales of everyday people and their lives, beautifully told, sometimes over a page or even less.
Sea Fret works as the perfect introduction to the writing of Dilys Rose, but it is so much more than that. It’s a reminder that great short stories, such as those in Sea Fret, deserve to not only be read, but rightly lauded.
Sea Fret is published with Scotland Street Press