Orr presents a collaboration of ten accessible modern short stories. Each set in different areas of New Zealand and each evoking different class and age views through the varying characters. The stories, despite their different viewpoints, are all intimately told, which makes the emotion easy to attain without it ever clouding the stories.
Across a number of the stories Orr evokes many of the renowned short story writers such as James Joyce, Nikolay Gogol and our very own Katherine Mansfield. For anyone who has a particular fondness for short stories you are likely to enjoy the subtle hints back to others’ tales but it won’t stop you from enjoying them if you haven’t. Orr has created a collection of varied and vivacious characters whose stories never escape the inevitable twists that we all read on for.
Given its diversity of characters over age groups and classes it is no small wonder that From Under The Overcoat has been nominated for this year’s New Zealand Post Awards. It displays the diversity of our culture and of human kind and each character is stuck with their own predicament and each present their own coping mechanism, which for some pay off.
From an unlucky sized woman with a lucky ticket to a middle aged man tired of caring for his un-well son; each character provides entertainment for the reader and reassurance that we all play a part in this somewhat mundane game of life. I particularly enjoyed the teenage tale of ‘Worms’ with its stories within a story. This layering of tales technique seems to be of interest to Orr as she writes ‘Open Home’ whilst evoking Mansfield’s ‘The Dollhouse’ both in content and context. Some may find this unoriginal, but I feel it adds depth to the text for those who can recognise it. That, along with her range of tense use (future tense included), help to create a style unique to Orr that makes the book a rather dynamic read.
This is an ideal read for anyone who likes to pass their time people watching, as many of the stories allow you to do just that, but this time you actually know what that person is thinking. For anyone who enjoys interesting fiction but feels like something fast paced that keeps you guessing make sure you read From Under The Overcoat.
Reviewed by Bethney Abbey
From Under the Overcoat
by Sue Orr
Published by Vintage, Random House NZ
ISBN 9781869790578 (Paperback) and ISBN 9781869795511 (Ebook)