Sunday, March 05, 2017

Mr Jolly (Short Stories) - Michael Stewart

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: 25/02/16

Publisher: Valley Press

ISBN: 978-1908853608

Format: Paperback, 156pp

Genre: Short Stories

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Nostalgia. Paranoia. Uncertainty. Beauty.

First Impressions
I have to say that the official synopsis for this book is alarmingly bold. Michael Stewart has a lot of faith and confidence in his writing; fortunately it is a rather decent collection of stories. I enjoyed Mr Jolly  a lot as I think it has a lot of character and demands a wide range of emotional responses. From stress, alertness and elation to sadness, happiness and anxiety. MS has a lot to say about the world and uses many different settings to tell his tales. Mr Jolly is bathed in nostalgia, confusion, frustration and debate. Thank you to Jamie from Valley Press for my copy of Mr Jolly.

Book Synopsis
Mr Jolly is the first collection of short stories by Michael Stewart, and contains some of the award-winning novelist's most extraordinary writing to date. Each tale offers a unique, utterly compelling insight into the human condition, framed by a mind-bendingly original concept that no other writer working today could - or indeed would - have concocted.

Readers will meet a conformity-obsessed league of bald men, breaking into homes for an extended debate about the nature of freedom; discuss the nomenclature of the marshmellow with a man whose interest in them goes beyond the norm; and meet God, in perhaps the most frustratingly accurate depiction of the divine being in modern literature.

Last phone calls, alien abductions, murders and more are grounded in stories of struggling parents, baffled lovers and lost children (some of whom may live permanently on the number 606 bus). However long you live, and however much you read, you'll never find another book quite like this. (Official Synopsis)

My Thoughts
I love short stories. I adore great short stories. Little snippets of life, the past, the present and the future. I look for bold themes, character, excitement and emotion when I read short stories as the author doesn't have time to build up a scene or plot. Mr Jolly is brimming with short bursts of emotionally poignant and potent story telling, provoking the mind and exciting the reader. 

There is a huge variety of drastically different settings and scenarios within Mr Jolly. Exploring a wide variety of important themes such as existential dread, the beauty of nature, nostalgia, old age, relationships (new and old) and unconditional love (to name a few). There are 16 stories in total, varying in length. Some are short and sweet, framing a relevant problem in modern day society. Several explore deeper into subjects that relate to us all. The rest break the boundaries of normality and touch on topics we all consider at some point.

Michael Stewart does not hold anything back when he writes. Using a mixture of 1st/2nd/3rd person perspectives he challenges the reader to embrace the edgier style of writing. I did enjoy most of his stories, though they do scare me a little. Mr Jolly is deep, I spent a lot of time trying to unlock the depth of what Stewart is trying to say. This is a short piece but there is plenty of re-read value. I definitely recommend adding this to your collection. 

MS's more risky stories didn't pay off, I felt A Story Without Meaning (though ambitious) was too uncomfortable and jarring. Third Person was intense, angry and obsessive. Above and Beneath was outright bizarre, but I appreciated MS's inventiveness. Mr Jolly contains a healthy balance of beauty, nostalgia, concern and insanity. Pick it up and see for yourself. Thank you for reading my thoughts on Mr Jolly and please leave me a comment on what you thought of this post.

Pick up Mr Jolly here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads 

About The Author: Michael Stewart was born in Salford in 1971. His debut novel King Crow (Bluemoose, 2011) won The Guardian's ''Not the Booker' Prize, and was the only debut selected as a 'recommended read' for World Book Night 2012. Subsequent publications have included short, themed poetry collection Couples (Valley Press, 2013) and a second novel, Cafe Assassin (Bluemoose, 2015)

Michael is senior lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield, and editor of the celebrated series of Grist anthologies. He lives with his partner and son in Bradford.

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