Writing flash fiction – short or very short stories is an art form. It's almost as hard as poetry to get an image and a story into so small a space.
Helena Mallett manages it almost 75 times with 75 stories in this eclectic collection of tales, most of which work wonderfully well. In these little gems are stories of alien abductions, forbidden love, infidelity (which crosses gender and stereotype barriers), incest and allergies.
Some of the stories are incredibly poignant – The Cap, Simple Things Really and Last Ferry jumped out at me, and I read them a few times, enjoying them more each time.
Mallett has an eye for alliteration and sibilance, and she uses our expectations like the punchlines of a joke or a twist in the tale to make the endings more powerful when they do hit us.
Not all of the stories worked for me – The Tube didn't a lot for me, neither did Iron, but most of these work – and out of seventy five, I'd say I enjoyed sixty of them. Not a bad average, and certainly better flash fiction than I'd manage.
The stories that did work well were the twists and the jokes – some of them I had to read three or four times before the full effect hit me. Wee Cough was a delight, especially the punchline. Taut Trousers was a delightful twist of sexual imagery at the…climax.
There were tales of sadness and parental loss in there as well, people I wanted to know more about – The Knock and Absent Son stand out among a few others.
Overall, a book to be dipped into; if you do that, I can almost guarantee you will come out with something to make you think - or even more precious – to make you smile.