Letters from Klara by Tove Jansson

Jansson - Letters from KlaraRemember the Moomin stories? They were written by Tove Jansson, who also wrote for adults. This collection of short stories has been published in English for the first time. They are very different from traditional short stories, in that whilst perfectly crafted they hint at ideas and themes through the characters, and the situations they find themselves in.

The title story was may favourite. It is told through a series of one sided letters, we only get to see what Klara writes, to a range of friends and acquaintances. She hands out advice, spiked comments and thoughts on life to her correspondents. Only having one half of the conversation is interesting, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks.

There is little in the way of a theme running through this collection, but each story will make you think and consider what is happening. I loved this as Jansson assumes her readers are intelligent and can layer their own experiences and understanding of character on her own very sparse, but perfectly crafted words.

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Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie

This is another of Christie’s short story collection, so to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. In general I find her short stories to be lacking somewhat. These short stories are more of a novella length, and I think this helps. The stories in this collection are:

  • Murder in the Mews
  • The Incredible Theft
  • Dead Man’s Mirror
  • Triangle at Rhodes

The first of these, Murder in the Mews is set on Guy Fawkes night, and coincidentally I did read it on the 5th November*. Poirot and Japp are walking together and listening to the fireworks. They conclude that a gunshot would not be noticed amongst all the firecrackers. Lo and behold, a body turns up the next day having been shot the night before. 

The Incredible Theft looks at some missing documents stolen from a room which nobody could have entered. Poirot is marvellous in this. He knows full well what has happened, and sets out to prove it in that knowing way of his. 

Dead Mans’ Mirror sees Sir Gervase Chevenix-Gore summon Poirot to his country estate, which Poirot doesn’t take well. When he gets there though, the fellow has committed suicide (perhaps). 

In Triangle at Rhodes Poirot is trying to get away from it all with a holiday, although he quickly gets caught up in the murder of a beautiful young woman who is killed using a poisoned cocktail intended for her husband. 

All of the stories are strong, and each shows how Poirot really looks at things in a totally different  light from everyone else, and his alternative view of the world is what makes him a brilliant detective. 

I am going to eat humble pie here, and say, despite my reservations these are great stories and very satisfying. You can read each of them easily in one sitting, and so if a little classic crime is what is needed on your daily commute, then these would suit you perfectly. 

*I’d like to claim I had planned it that way, but frankly I am not that organised.

Short Story Joy

Last year I was stuck in a terrible traffic jam. A proper “nose to tail, crawling along at a rate my speedometer couldn’t register, trying to not bump into the person in front and liberally scattering rude words to the driver behind who wasn’t offering me the same courtesy” traffic jam.

The only thing that stopped me from suffering a major sense of humour failure was that on the radio the winners of the 2014 BBC Radio 2 500 word short story competition were being announced. This week the 2015 competition has been launched, and it reminded me how good last year’s stories were.

You can find them on the dedicated website either to listen to or to read. The stories are split into two groups, 9 and under and 10 – 13. There are some absolute stunners in there, wonderful, imaginative, clever, funny, poignant. If this is the standard of writing coming through, we have some potentially great novelists in the making.

If you want to pass a happy lunch hour, then this is the place to go for some literary joy.

365 by James Robertson

This is 2015’s challenge. 365 by James Roberston is the print collection of 365 short stories published online in 2013, each 365 words long, and one for each day of the year. If you are looking for a way to kick start a daily reading habit, this sounds like the perfect way.  I’m going to try and read one per day, and i’ll do a little weekly summary of what I thought each Sunday. 

If you fancy reading along with me, you would be very welcome. I’d love to hear your thoughts!