In these stories of the impossible, master of the domestic thriller Sally Emerson introduces the eerie into her keen-eyed portraits of everyday life. A clerk working in a public register office begins to receive death certificates dated in the future, but can she alter fate and save the victims? A woman unable to have children discovers a way of cloning her husband, but is their cloned son destined to repeat the mistakes of his father? A suburban mother is prescribed health supplements with rather amorous side-effects; can she resist their sway and keep her hands off her neighbours? And who exactly are the tempestuous and dangerous warring couple who seem to have been alive forever?
Emerson’s tales of quotidian life invaded by forces beyond our control are both beguiling and uncanny, and ultimately uplifting as she celebrates the tenuous gap between reality and unreality. Likened to Roald Dahl and Helen Dunmore, with a dash of Shirley Jackson, this is fiction at its finest, a rare blend of fantasy and the literary. Magical, humorous and unfailingly honest in its depiction of humanity, Perfect will stay with the reader long after leaving the twists and turns of its pages.
What I Thought:
After having read several of Sally Emerson’s novels, I was excited to read Perfect, her first collection of short stories. As with Sally’s novels, I was promised the everyday, but with a twist, and they certainly didn’t disappoint!
I sometimes struggle with short stories, in feeling that they need a bit more, that the subjects would have been better suited to a novella or novel, but Sally Emerson’s writing style really seemed to suit this format.
Although all of the stories have a mysterious hook and are all of the highest standard, I think my favourites were The Couple – a historian keeps finding the same wise and warring couple turning up in places they couldn’t possibly be – and Death Certificates – a civil servant finds death certificates dated in the future and wonders what she can do with that information.
As I said, the stories are all rooted in the mundane, but there is a supernatural twist in all of them, which lifts them into the place where the reader can have a wry smile at being included in the joke.
I’d very much recommend this short story collection, but if you get a chance do also check out Sally’s novels – Separation has been my favourite so far – as it’s great that the recent re-issues have found a new readership.
Perfect is published by Quadrant Books.
About the Author:
Sally Emerson is an award-winning novelist who has published six novels, all of which were reissued as classics in 2017 to critical and commercial acclaim.
Sally was brought up in London, lived in the States for a while, went to Oxford university and edited magazines including the literary magazine ‘Books and Bookmen’. She has written fiction all her life, and a faded collection her mother gave her as a child, ‘Great Short Stories of the World’ is still one of her favourite books. She likes the playfulness of short stories; the way they grab the reader and tease the reader in such a short space.
She writes on travel for ‘The Sunday Times’ and ‘The Times’, favouring places that challenge, and lives in north west London. Her three anthologies about birth, love and death (“New Life”, ‘Be Mine’, ‘In Loving Memory’), bring together the greatest writing on the subjects to comfort and inspire and amuse.
This post is part of a blog tour celebrating Perfect by Sally Emerson. Check out some of the other participating blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.