‘Twenty-seven very short human stories’ it says on the cover of Brightly Coloured Horses by Mandy Huggins. Many of them are competition winners. This is Huggins’ first anthology, but these are not the stories of a beginner. She is a talented writer of the human state of mind who chooses every single word with care, and makes every single word work hard to convey its meaning. It has to in a flash fiction story; there is no space for indulgence on the part of the writer.
Women, and men, fall in love, out of love, they grieve for what they have lost or never had, their attraction is instant, fading or lustful opportunity, they feel cherished, desired or neglected. I’ve chosen three stories to discuss. Huggins is excellent on the many shades of the human relationship and the titular ‘Brightly Coloured Horses’ is a key example. Marielle and Hugh arrive in Paris for a romantic weekend. ‘The food was mediocre: the bread was yesterday’s and their omelettes were overcooked. She smiled, and said it was fine, and they both drank too much wine because they knew it wasn’t.’ Their disengagement with each other is familiar to anyone whose relationship has broken down. Marielle knows what is happening, wills it not to, wonders why they are in Paris and decides to make her own memories of the city.
My favourites in this collection were often the shortest. ‘Flight Path’ is barely 100 words but conjures up such a clear picture of a place and a moment in time. To describe it is to spoil its effect, so I won’t. It is the first story in the collection, quite rightly.
I chose ‘Kisses’ as my third story, based purely on its opening line: ‘Kevin Healey’s kisses tasted like dunked biscuits.’ Julie is in Tesco when she sees a man she last saw, and kissed, at a teenage Christmas party. Huggins explores the memory of lost teenage years, the yearning promise of something that never was, the hesitant wonder if it could be again.
Read more of Mandy Huggins’ writing here.
‘Brightly Coloured Horses’ by Mandy Huggins [UK: Chapeltown]
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BRIGHTLY COLOURED HORSES by @troutiemcfish #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3lS via @SandraDanby