28 September, 2015

Do It Now, Jump the Table by Jeremy Page - 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 final shortlisted story is Do It Now, Jump the Table by Jeremy Page, where a young man meets his girlfriend's parents for the first time and is determined not to be taken aback by their alternative lifestyle.

I think this was probably my favourite story of the whole list. It was a simple story - not a thriller or a plot full of twists - but it was sharp and funny, and somehow a little sad at points too. The premise was that blend of an ordinary situation with a spin on it that made it quirky but not bizarre. I wasn't on the edge of my seat, but I wanted to find out where it was going. My only criticism of the entire thing was that I felt the last couple of lines were unnecessary. The point being made had already been made much more subtly - I didn't need it spelled out for me and I would've preferred to be left to fill in the final thought for myself, rather than being spoon-fed. Apart from that though, I thought it was great.

I've been trying to think how to rank the five stories in order of how good they are in my opinion, but I find it is impossible. At this level of competition, all the writers are so good, I am in awe of all of them and couldn't say who was the best writer. I was instantly impressed with the quality of The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel, but would I say it was better than say, Broderie Anglaise by Frances Leviston? Perhaps. I'm not sure. All I can say is that I am surprised at just how much I enjoyed all the stories. In previous years there have been at least a couple which have left me completely cold - sometimes including the winner - whereas this year I was interested from start to finish with all of them.

If I had to choose, then Do It Now, Jump the Table would be my choice of winner - purely on how much I enjoyed it. Perhaps followed by Broderie Anglaise. But any of them would be worthy winners. Maybe it's not a coincidence that those two were the ones that made me laugh? Anyway, I'd be glad to know what you made of the stories - have you got a favourite?

The winner will be announced on BBC Radio Four at 7:15pm on Tuesday 6th October.

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