25 September, 2015

Broderie Anglaise by Frances Leviston - Review

This year I am listening to and writing micro-reviews for the five shortlisted entries in the BBC National Short Story Award. Why not listen along with me?

The third shortlisted story is Broderie Anglaise by Frances Leviston. The story is narrated by a young woman who intends to make her own dress in order to attend a family wedding. But the enterprise reveals tensions between her and her mother. You can listen here.

I didn't think the premise of this story sounded promising. Dress-making and kitchen sink dramas don't capture my imagination. But I really liked this. The voice of the narrator was brilliantly-written and the other characters so perfectly-drawn it was impossible not to feel I was listening in to a slice of real life. Although it isn't a comedy, the sharp writing of Frances Leviston and excellent performance of Kate O'Flynn brought some moments of humour that seems to be quite rare among literary short stories.

I enjoyed the straight-forward story-telling - a story that started somewhere and built chronologically towards a specific moment in time. However, I was a bit taken aback by the suddenness of the ending. The story was, of course, less about actually making a dress for a wedding, and more about how it revealed the nature of the relationship between the main character and her mother. Therefore the ending wasn't unsatisfactory as such, I just felt it could've tied up a few more loose ends. I know that's not how literary fiction usually works, but I often feel the same way about other highly-acclaimed short stories - as if I'm missing something somewhere. Perhaps I'm not high-brow enough and that level of subtlety is just wasted on me! Anyway, I found this story highly-enjoyable regardless - probably my favourite so far.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like it had what is often the New Yorker ending. I always feel I missed something, too, even though the stories are always engrossing. How cool that you are writing micro reviews for these stories.

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