Book Review: Artefacts and Other Stories by Rebecca Burns

That dandelion. A flash of stubborn yellow in a dark box of space. It had promised sunshine but had tasted sour.

Artefacts.

A dandelion.

A mayfly.

A family, bereft.

Items and mementos of a life, lived hard and with love, or long, empty, bitter. In these sharply drawn and unflinching short stories, Rebecca Burns unpicks the connection between the lives we live and what we leave behind.

What I Thought:

I have a mixed relationship with short stories, in that very often I am left wanting more, needing more of a resolution for the characters but, having read Rebecca Burns’ collection, The Settling Earth, and enjoying it thoroughly, I was reassured that Artefacts and Other Stories would not leave me in such a predicament!

While the first collection I mentioned looked at people and their reactions to the environment in which they find themselves, Artefacts looks at the things we leave behind us, the objects and traditions that inspire love, hate, fear and that have a story long after we are gone.

I felt myself most drawn to the stories depicting the aftermath of the First World War, purely because of my own interests and family history, but it was interesting to see the war from the point of view of the men who fought – so often the histories are written by officers and historians, who have no real experience of warfare and the everyday soldiers never get their say. This is beginning to change with documentaries like Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, so it’s great to see more in print.

Not all of the stories in the collection are historically based, being set in a number of times and places and into the present day, with Mayflies of Apollo being bang up-to-date. This, I think, leads to a richer collection as there is something there to suit many tastes and also introduce things like historical fiction to those who might not select it at first glance.

As I have said, short stories often leave me wanting much more, but this collection seemed to strike the right balance. It is interesting to note that Rebecca Burns has also written longform fiction, in the novel The Bishop’s Girl, which I also look forward to reading.

To find out more about Rebecca Burns, you can check out her website.

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