I love a good novel, one that you can really become absorbed into the lives of its characters. It needs to be a page turner, with several hundred pages to turn at that. But I also admire the short story. I don't tend to read many of them, but over a month ago now (and yes, that is an indication of just how far behind I am on my reviews!), I got into the rather addictive habit of reading a short story over my bowl of porridge at the breakfast table in the morning.
The short stories in An Elegy for Easterly, by Petina Gappah were just perfect for this. Each of her short stories, all set in Zimbabwe, drew me in from the very first line. The opening few words were often the last I expected and I never could tell just how each of the stories were going to turn out. They were all incredible works of writing on their own - as any good short story is - but this was a whole book of them. Usually, I have a few favourites in a short story collection such as this, but in An Elegy for Easterly, each story was as good as, if not better, than the last.
There was the story of 'The Mupandawana Dancing Champion'
Opening line: When the prices of everything went up ninety-seven times in one year, M'dhara Vitalis Mukaro came out of retirement to make the coffins in which we buried our dead.
And the story of 'Aunt Juliana's Indian'
Opening line: Mr Vaswani of Vaswani Brothers General Dealers was the first Indian that I saw closely enough to count the teeth in his mouth and the buttons on his shirt.
The stories were clever, witty and very entertaining, and at the same time, provided an intriguing insight into the country of Zimbabwe, a place I was fortunate enough to visit when it was safe to do so! And the stories were all of such a length, that I never felt too guilty about reading at the breakfast table.
I'd definitely recommend An Elegy for Easterly, by Petina Gappah as a different kind of read - it's a book Mums could have in the car while waiting to pick the kids up from school, commuters can have on the tube, or, like me, to have at the breakfast table. My only comment is that each story needs to be read on its own, so much like an apple a day keeps the doctor away, a short story a day has got to be good for the soul!