One From the Archive: ‘The Whole Story and Other Stories’ by Ali Smith ****

First published in May 2014.

Merely to be a gushing Ali Smith fangirly, I thought that I would begin this review by saying that it is really cool to open a library book written by someone so prolific and to see ‘local author’ scrawled on the front page.  If you had not guessed from this, I adore Smith’s quirky writing and creative stories, and she is certainly one of my favourite authors. 

Before I begin each one of Smith’s short story collections, I know that I will very much enjoy every single tale which has been included within its pages, often for very different reasons.  As I very much – and rather predictably – loved or very much enjoyed every story in The Whole Story and Other Stories, I thought that I would jot down a few thoughts about each story, and the reasons as to why I liked them so much.

– ‘The Universal Story’: I loved the conversational stream-of-consciousness style; the way in which Smith describes how one can adore books and the promise of treasures in secondhand bookshops; one man’s admiration for The Great Gatsby, and the collection of copies of the novel.
– ‘Gothic’: the personification of personality traits; the growth of the story’s protagonist.
– ‘Being Quick’: the use of the reader as a character of sorts; the use of two different first person narrators; the fact that the couple who feature as the protagonists are nameless.
– ‘May’: an original idea; I have read this story several times before and still find its beauty striking.
– ‘Paradise’: the use of very long but perfectly constructed sentences; the imagery which Smith builds.
– ‘Erosive’: the sheer number of characters and the way in which they were introduced so seamlessly.
– ‘The Book Club’: the structure, which cleverly told both a present day story and a backstory.
– ‘Believe Me’: the skill and tightness of the conversation between the protagonists.
– ‘Scottish Love Songs’: the very contemporary style of the prose.
– ‘The Shortlist Season’: thoughtful and urgent.
– ‘The Start of Things’: the dual perspective of the same event.

Please, if you have not done so before, go and pick up one of Ali Smith’s books.  Whether you read a novel, a short story collection or a work of non-fiction, she is a novelist who is well worth discovering.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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