Sort Of Books £7.99 (272pp)
Paperback: The Fantastic Book of Everybody's Secrets, by Sophie Hannah
Friday 11 April 2008
It's rare to read a collection of short stories from beginning to end, but Sophie Hannah's debut in the form will leave you feeling genuinely tickled and wanting more. Better known as a poet and crime novelist, Hannah introduces some very contemporary twists into these old-fashioned tales of the unexpected. The award-winning opening entry, "The Octopus Net", sets the book's confident narrative tone. A domestic chiller about a young family's brush with an unidentified stalker, the story is menacing enough to keep the pages turning, and astute enough about rocky relationships to make even the narrator wince. Yet more terrifying are Hannah's stories of shame and humiliation. The more comic the scenario, the scarier the consequences. In "The Tub", a jilted young woman resolves to enjoy a one-night stand with a man she finds repulsive; in the title story a former deputy director of a literature festival so embarrasses herself in front of Ian McEwan, she's forced to move to Loughborough and take a job in a hotel laundry. Stories of ill-judged memos, lavatorial mishaps and petty crimes follow, related with a relish rarely matched since the outré offerings of Roald Dahl.
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