I‘ve been enjoying Michelle Elvy’s fiction for a decade and this is an intellectually exciting and resonant collection of short fictions, the kind that grabs me and makes me forget to feed my children (Twitter, people who know me, my children are fed).
It’s a collection of short fictions (mostly flash), charting families and friends across the globe — lovers in the Pyrenees, a kid wading in the shallows of the Wannsee, grandparents everywhere and a baker in Palmerston North. Switching from piece to piece feels like travelling (a blissful sensation in these post-lockdown, confusing days). There’s a strong sense of geography — America, Germany, New Zealand, other places that I’ll identify in the next read.
The characters are pithy, intelligent, imperfect people whose lives are easy to slide into, so that reading feels like a cross between nostalgia and adventure. Elvy nails the passing of time, change, and the spaces between people; I heard the banjo music, tasted the fish, felt the warmth of a family, acknowledged the imperfection of what we buy versus what we should, and was transported back to a youth seventy years earlier.
In between there’s the fuddy-duddy editor, a slice of meta, the voice of reason, clean colons, and maybe even sanity.
(For the word-nerds, there’s also beautiful white space, and a sympathetic approach to layout and cadence that creates a visual poetry and opportunity for the reader to insert themselves. It’s layered and inviting. Also, Elvy swears better than anyone I’ve met.)
It’s a very human collection.
“It occurs to Jackie that the years with Jim were good ones, real ones”
— Michelle Elvy, Treasure
Isn’t that what we all want? Real, good years?
I’ll be buying this for friends at Christmas, and re-reading my copy for the indulgence.
Links to buy:
The Other Side of Better by Michelle Elvy (Ad hoc Fiction shop)
The author on Twitter