Scratched Enamel Heart, the latest collection by award-winning short story writer Amanda Huggins, does not disappoint. Featuring ‘Red’, the story shortlisted for the 2019 Costa Short Story Award, the other stories include some gems.
There are three stories that stayed with me, returning to me at unexpected moments when I had moved on to another book.
‘Light Box’ is about Alice, a daughter grieving for the loss of her father but glad to be free of the stepmother she never liked, who had tried to wipe the house and their memories clear of Alice’s mother. Huggins has a wonderful simplicity of description that feels just right, such as the beach, ‘a slip of a thing, a nail clipping of pale sand beneath a wide sky.’
With a darker tone than any other story by Huggins that I recall reading before, ‘Uncanny’ is unsettling. When I remember it, it leaves a sense of discomfort. Like looking over your shoulder when walking in the dark, clutching your bag to your side. Perhaps she should try writing suspense fiction. Alan eats every night in the same café where Carol is a waitress. It starts when she comments that a blue shirt would suit him, would go with the colour of his eyes. He buys five.
The last story in this collection, ‘This Final Perfect Thing’ is unbearably poignant. A perfect, short, short story. This is what Huggins excels at, distilling human emotion into two pages that anyone can read and feel deeply too.
Huggins is a consummate story writer, as comfortable with the long form as with the briefest of flash fictions and poetry. Her settings vary from India to Japan, Istanbul to the English seaside and she makes each location real, real for her characters and real for me as I read. Coming in the New Year is her first novella, All Our Squandered Beauty. Watch out for my review.
BUY THE BOOK
‘Out Chasing Boys’ is from The Collective Noun for Birds, Huggins’ first poetry collection. Read ‘Out Chasing Boys’ here.
Why is Amanda’s favourite comfort read is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry?
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