I’m not really a fan of short stories. I often find them lacking – I get to the end and feel dissatisfied that the story stops, with so much unsaid and so much more to be said. I had attributed this to my love of longer fiction and decided I just guiltily wanted more. But reading this debut collection from Emma Martin, I have discovered that great short fiction is in another league altogether. That’s is possible to connect with a character and still feel satisfied when they leave your conscious after only 20 pages.
This collection is about women, young and old, all at different stages of their lives, all with different challenges to conquer. The characters are recognisable in a way that many could be me; my friends; or my family. Or yours. I felt I knew them all by the end of the book. And although I cared enough about the fate of many, I did not crave more pages since these life segments were complete. Exquisitely complete.
Strong and interesting women of all ages populate this book – a woman who returns to NZ after an exciting OE and settles for a nice and good man; a 1960s teenager who finds herself whisked off to the city to await the imminent birth of her first child; a contemporary couple whose mildly dysfunctional relationship results in unpredictable disaster.
The events that unfold are simple everyday occurrences that many of us could find ourselves sin the midst of, but the observation of the fallout of these seemingly simple activities, events and decisions, is perfect. Emma Martin is an adept observer of the interesting titbits of which everyday life is comprised. It is perhaps not surprising that she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the story from which the book takes its title.
I am already eager to read her next collection.
Reviewed by Gillian Torckler
Two Girls in a Boat
by Emma Martin
Published by Victoria University Press