All the beloved ghosts ~ Alison Macleod

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One of the benefits of reading a collection of short stories is the time factor. Not only can you consume an entire story in one sitting, but it’s also feasible to ‘put off’ a story for another day.

Don’t you find that often a story that everyone else has recommended, falls flat for you? Why did everyone else love this book, you wonder. I’ve come to realise that more times than not, when I put down the story, and then come back to it months later, my experience with the book changes. Usually, I’m in a different head space, and I’m more receptible to what the writer is doing.

Short stories are even more conducive to ‘returning’ because of their length.

This collection of fiction will be one that I return to in a few months; I want to give some of the stories a second try.

All the Beloved Ghosts, centres around the theme of death. Far from morbid, the author explores the subject from angles that are both new and refreshing. Several of the stories highlight the passing of famous people— Sylvia Plath, Anton Chekov and Princess Diana to name a few, and celebrity is given a fresh coat of paint (aren’t we all tired of fame being fronted as ideal?)

The first two stories, one historical and the other contemporary, were both winsome in their style, and heart-wrenching in their outcome. They both thoroughly engaged my imagination.

The few stories which followed the first two left me wanting.
By the time I got to the story titled, The Death of Anton Chekov By Anton Chekhov, I had mostly lost interest. However, this story, an account of his death narrated by Anton Chekov, reignited my interest. What a gem of a story— the voice is surprising, the tone is light, and the honesty is beautiful. One of my favourite lines from this story made me second guess who Chekov, the literary idol, was:

“Later that day, Lev and Dr Schwoerer have a job getting me into the white-and-blue suit for my laying out. I never was anyone’s straight man, and true to myself, I died doubled up on my side.
Never let it be said that I don’t amuse myself.”

Sheer joy. This collection is full of beautiful prose like this, and it’s because of that prose I’m sure, when I return to the ‘dull stories’, I’ll find it was my lack of brilliance that made those stories fall flat for me. I’m looking forward to cracking open this collection again in a few months.

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