Published: 2015 by The Story Bazaar | Pages: 314 | Review Request
‘The Village; A Year in Twelve Tales’ chronicles the life of a semi-rural English village across the course of one calender year.
It is New Year and people in the village are making plans. A father and son visit a disused aerodrome, where they find a mysterious link to their past. In Spring a young boy becomes entranced by nature, as he chases a hare. A marriage enters its death throes with a terrifying dive. In May-time a gardening competition re-kindles an old rivalry and there are dastardly deeds at the Summer fete. Real violence erupts with an influx of transient newcomers, and, later, a new arrival to the village learns the importance of first impressions.
Characters include a young family, a policeman who finds unlooked for celebrity, a school teacher who survives an emotional calamity, a publican who becomes a hero, a would-be journalist and her newspaper editor boss, a hairdresser and his gossipy clientele and many others. From children and teenagers, to pensioners not ready to go gentle into that good night. Four generations of the Marshall family navigate the difficulties of everyday family life as, elsewhere in the village, plots are hatched, babies are born, matches are made and marriages founder. And death, anticipated and unlooked for, pays a call.
I was given the opportunity of reviewing this book for a local author to Clapham, JJ Anderson, or Julie. Now, I don’t read many short stories, so I was pretty pumped to get into this – quick little snippets of literature to read on my commute to work – perfect!
Overall, the structure of the text is solid. By having each story linked to one calender month, it really helps to reader in picking up the tale after a break of a couple of days or so. I think by breaking the tales up by month, Anderson gives the reader a sense of time as well as seasonal context. You can see how the Summer Fete would have occurred in glorious sunshine (fingers crosses, as it is British weather!). Not only would this have made the procession with the Summer Fete Queen look idyllic, but it would have definitely have added even more the drama exit of a certain village member after manhandling the fete Queen!
Anderson paints the scenes of various issues among village members, and those chance tender moments beautifully. You end up becoming extremely attached to the village and the people who reside in it.
All the characters remind me of certain members of the village and rural town I grew up in! I love how Anderson looks at all different members of the community – young, old, loved, hated and the newly welcomed. I could definitely draw parallels to particular characters (no spoilers here though!) I think my favourite character would have to be Molly – strong, independent character who shows a more timid, grief-stricken side as the tales progress. A pillar of the community, who quickly learns that the residents of the village care just as much, if not more about her and her unwell husband and son, and she does of them. She’s charming, realistic and the sort of neighbour I would love to have.
Each short story deals with a different aspect of village life, while introducing the colourful array of residents. Anderson cleverly interlinks all the characters as the tales move on – relationships are formed, and you really begin to see just how important community is to ‘The Village’. I suppose one could argue that Anderson takes a rather stereotypical stance regarding the goings on within the village, and possibly some of the characters. But, and it’s a big but, the things which are ‘stereotypical’ are the things which actually occur in veryday village life. Trust me, I grew up in one!
For me, these short stories pull together a community which stand strong when faced with death, loss and corruption. The characters are relate-able, as are some of the squabbles and issues explored within ‘The Village’. What a superb first publication, I look forward to (hopefully) many more titles from Julie.<