An Unfamiliar Landscape, the new short story collection by Amanda Huggins, is made for dipping in and out of, comprising longer reads with satisfying snappy flash fiction. There is something in every story that made me think, ‘that’s so right,’ or ‘that happened to me,’ or ‘I know how that feels.’ That’s why everyone should read her work. The landscape changes from story to story, from Huggins’ native Yorkshire via Paris and London to Spain and Japan. Each story offers a glimpse of a relationship, an insight into the emotions of love, hope, longing, loss, betrayal, regret and grief. She writes about everyone’s emotions, her stories seem familiar, so well-worn and lived-in they must be true.
‘Ten of Hearts’ is a short, hard-hitting story about magic, about vulnerability, gullibility and sleight of hand. Once bitten, it is difficult to move to a new relationship but often too easy. A previous version of this story was broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds in 2021.
In ‘Eating Unobserved,’ Marnie rents an apartment in Paris where she will work on her next book. Seduced by the beauty of the apartment and the simple delight of the food, she spends her time alone. Until one dark night she sees a light on in an apartment opposite, a man unpacks groceries and pours a glass of wine. For a few nights she watches him, and then grows bolder.
Sam and Isla are in the kitchen in ‘In the Time it Takes to Make a Risotto.’ He is chopping vegetables and she is reading headlines off her phone, reciting his horoscope, sharing crossword clues. As he cooks, her mind returns to the affair she had with his best friend, the lies she has told and secrets kept. As the risotto cooks, the atmosphere tightens with words unspoken.
In other stories, a teenage daughter challenges her father; a tourist visits a war grave on behalf of a friend; a young waiter delivers a room service tray to an older female guest.
Themes recur. Food, the eating and drinking of; the freeing sensation of being somewhere foreign, somewhere that is not home; the assumptions made on first meetings and the subsequent challenging of those perceptions; the making of repeat mistakes; and the time it takes to grieve, both for loved ones, and for chances lost or misused.
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Click the title to read my reviews of other short stories, novellas and poetry by Amanda Huggins:-
ALL OUR SQUANDERED BEAUTY
BRIGHTLY COLOURED HORSES
CROSSING THE LINES
SEPARATED FROM THE SEA
THE COLLECTIVE NOUN FOR BIRDS
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AN UNFAMILIAR LANDSCAPE by @troutiemcfish #shortstories https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Qr via @SandraDanby