Book Review: Lunate vol. 2

Lunate vol 2

Some of you may remember that last year I reviewed an astonishingly impressive short story collection, Lunate vol. 1. The quality of writing and ideas explored made this short work stand out to such a degree that it made it onto my Books of 2022 list. Thus I was happy to receive a copy of the second print edition published by the Lunate Journal. Once again, this is a collection I can unreservedly recommend.

Lunate vol. 2 is made up of seven short stories and essays from an impressive list of contributors. Although readers will undoubtedly have their favourites, all entries are worth reading.

The opening story, This content has been removed by Kate Vine, tells of a marriage that encountered problems from the outset. Narrated by a young woman, it opens by explaining why her new husband moved to live in a different country after the wedding. The strength of the story for me is in the structure – numbered, bite-sized updates on their relationship before and after the nuptials. The taut and enticing writing is decidedly moreish, the digressions adding a touch of ambiguity and humour.

The Twist in the Maid by Elizabeth Brennan also uses an inspired structure to draw in the reader. Between commentary on a painting by Vermeer (Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid) the story of a young marketing designer is told. Charlotte is contracted to work mornings, taking on freelance work afterwards. Her passion, though, is her painting which she does in the evening. What is being explored is the balance of power within a work environment and how this can spill over into what should be personal life.

Mother’s House by Jayson Carcione is an end of life story. The protagonist has left his flat in the city to care for his mother, comatose since a fall. There are snippets on their background. The son, struggling with how best to fulfil this new role, takes it on himself to care for the crumbling house alongside its owner. I was less convinced by the more magical aspects but the denouement was uplifting.

The Naming Convention by Adam Farrer offers an entertaining riff on how children may be affected by the moniker their parents assign them at birth. This came across as particularly apt given how certain celebrities choose to name their offspring. Given this is written as an essay, I wondered if the child encountered at the GP surgery was anyone real…

Vacation by JL Bogenschneider tells of an ill-fated visit to London by an American father and son. An accident renders carefully made plans infeasible but good times are still had, mostly through moments some may not notice. Memories of holidays are not necessarily linked to expensive tourist attractions.

Burning Down Our House by Stu Hennigan is a coruscating essay on attitudes to climate change. Although including facts drawn from research and studies, the structure avoids undue dogmatism. Rather it asks why the wealthy believe the vast amounts of money they hoard from raping the earth’s resources will protect them when all human life is rendered unsustainable. The focus, though, is on the younger generations – those such as the author as a child, who wanted to save the planet through recycling, and others to come who will reap the effects of what has been sown.

“for people my age, our children could be the parents of the Last Generation”

I actually drew hope from the ending, although am aware some may not feel this way.

The final story, The Technique of Snow by Jess Moody, is an inspired follow up to Hennigan’s essay as well as being a finely told tale on its own impressive merits. A village kept picture perfect for residents and wealthy tourists comes at a cost that few will admit to. Short term thinking and blinkered vision is so familiar when personal comforts are still available (the tale also made me question the environmental cost of modern ski resorts).

A collection, then, that is very much in tune with our times but may be enjoyed by readers for the varied structures and themes as well as the quality of the writing. Thought provoking as it is what impresses most are the literary explorations and innovation. Lunate has cemented its place as a journal to follow.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Lunate Journal.


Book Review: Lunate vol. 1

Lunate vol 1

Lunate Vol. 1 is an astonishingly impressive short story collection published by the Lunate Journal. It is their first print edition – the second is due for imminent release and will be launched on November 3rd at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Manchester.

Vol. 1 contains nine short stories and there isn’t a weak one amongst them. The editors – Hannah Clark and Gary Kaill – are to be commended in selecting work by authors capable of writing so powerfully in this format.

The collection opens with What becomes of the night when there is nothing left to see? by Rosie Garland. On the surface this is a story of a solitary man who works nights for a Ministry, plotting the night sky. He enjoys the rhythms of his work but grows concerned when changes are noticed. It is more upsetting still when he cannot find anyone to discuss this with. There is much to unpack – fear of loss or change, of not being listened to, joy in a task drained when seen from a different perspective. What is happening within the context presented could be a metaphor for the modern world in which we are expected to follow instruction without question even as we see potential damage.

Rewild by Claire Carroll was one of my favourite stories. A young woman is working what is supposed to be her final day on a project dealing with animals that in a previous era were farmed. She became involved alongside her boyfriend, required to follow company rules and also support his endeavours. It becomes apparent that there are cracks in the relationship and also in her employers understanding of the creatures supposedly being cared for. So much is conveyed beneath what is clearly stated – on privacy, control and agency. Good deeds are not always done with good intentions. The denouement was pitch perfect.

Hidden Knowledge by Linda Mannheim explores place and belonging. A young woman returns from Managua to Washington Heights, where she grew up, as her mother is dying. She observes the burned buildings in the Bronx, comparing them to war scarred cities in Nicaragua. She has lived through danger in both areas, as did her mother when she fled to America. A friend questions her suggestion that the Bronx is a comparable war zone. Again, much is going on beneath the everyday of the story. People coming and going, losing touch by choice, leaving only memories.

“That’s one of the things I understand now about disappearance – if someone’s nowhere, they can be anywhere.”

Daisies by Dave Wakely looks at another immigrant experience, this time through the eyes of two Romanians who fled the Ceaușescu regime. They were welcomed as a novelty in Britain at a time when asylum seekers were an occasional splash rather than a tidal wave due to war and human rights issues. The elder man, a fêted if not well paid professor, questions how his adopted country has changed over the years – and if his homeland may now be a better prospect.

“Here, it seems culture is a luxury. For all your smiling patrons’ airy chatter about diversity and inclusion, the ticket prices never fall.”

The once coveted British passport may now be less respectable abroad than its Romanian equivalent. The story offers much to chew over around middle class British attitudes and conceits.

Artistic hubris is brilliantly dissected in my other favourite story in the collection, The Prepared Piano by Jonathan Gibbs. Structured as a celebrity interview, a brilliant pianist is about to perform in a much lauded venue. Having made her name in the usual way, through virtuoso performance, the pianist has now moved in an innovative direction. She pays a young man to change her instrument without him telling her what has been done, and then plays to the audience through whatever performance difficulties this may create. It is so true that self-appointed artistic connoisseurs will accept such ridiculous concepts as wondrous, with those who don’t show appreciation regarded as inferior arbiters of quality. Artists may well grow bored over time with sameness but change is not necessarily evolutionary. The denouement is almost painfully hilarious.

The remaining four stories in the collection examine aspects of the human condition while evoking each setting skilfully. As characters are introduced and developed the reader feels the possible disturbance beneath what may on the surface appear banal.

In bella ciao by Daniel Payne the protagonist seeks help for a problem he must deal with.

“my father is back at the hotel in the bath and dead”

The Clearance by John Saul takes the reader inside the head of an estate agent, offering up the professional he strives to be alongside the reality.

Ceramics for Beginners by Claire Thomson tells of a young woman in a loving but unequal relationship who seeks a new skill that will garner admiration. She has dreams for her future but recognises potential issues these could introduce to a life she was generally content with.

The collection closes with Exit Interview for a Valued Colleague by Ben Pester, in which a manager grasps this opportunity to talk frankly of himself to his captive audience. What develops grows ever more disturbing.

Although both clever and entertaining, the insights offered are more often witty than caustic. Human faults are portrayed without the need for explicit exposition. A fabulous collection that will engage and reward any reader – highly recommended.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Lunate Journal.