These fierce and funny feminist stories shine with everyday heroines at work and at play. Ordinary lives are transformed as women try to be themselves while clowning around for others.
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Captured in familiar situations as well as in flights of fancy, the women in these stories are engaged in acts of self-preservation: they are exhilarated to discover the joy and surprise of other women’s company, they make bold sexual choices, they go on a night-time excursions; as grandmothers, they give their grandchildren unsuitable presents.
In one story, a young woman and her mother harness their creativity to express their horror at the world around them. In another, a teenage mother struggles with her feelings for the father of her child. One of the tales follows a woman who experiences the freedom of the workplace while another shows how imprisoning it can be.
Compassionate, unexpected, and full of small triumphs in the face of adversity, this collection establishes Hannah Vincent as one of the freshest voices in contemporary fiction.
A Life in Books31 March 2020
It was that eye-catching jacket that attracted me to Hannah Vincent’s She-Clown and Other Stories although I’d spotted Amanda at Bookish Chat was interested and she has a sharp eye for short stories. Vincent already has a couple of novellas under her belt but this is her first collection of stories which are all about women, many of them in tricky circumstances of one sort or another.
The sixteen pieces that make up She-Clown and Other Stories stretch over a mere 160 pages, some briefer than others beginning with Portrait of the Artist in which the parents of a bright young girl are called into her school to discuss her disturbing writing. Several explore the gender power imbalance – Carnival sees one woman accept the her boss’ initiation rite while her friend does not, having chosen to impersonate him at the office fundraiser. Others portray coercive relationships in a more tangential way: in Connie and Me a friendship between a Chinese student and an ageing ex-model living with a gambler ends poignantly. Two more of the sixteen stood out for me: Camel Toe in which two ageing sisters come alive at a netball match, one shedding her relentless caring role, and the eponymous She-Clown who performs to a sceptical audience then has her own cynicism overturned when a children’s birthday party gig doesn’t end quite as she expected. Perhaps the most satisfying, though is the final story, Woman of the Year, in which the preceding pieces’ main protagonists are all brought together at an awards ceremony.
Vincent explores her feminist theme with wit and humour, occasionally bringing her readers up short with a touch of the surreal. It takes quite a degree of discipline to tell a story in ten pages or fewer, as so many of the pieces in this collection are, but Vincent carries it off beautifully. Her sharp attention to detail, smartly demonstrated in Woman of the Year, and clean, spare writing coupled with the delivery of more than a few surprises, small twists and subversive details, make this a pleasing collection. Just two stories didn’t work for me, a pretty impressive hit rate for a collection of sixteen.
If you’re keen to get your hands on a copy of She-Clown and Other Stories, you can order one direct from Myriad Editions. They’re a small publisher who will be struggling in these difficult times. This is their 100th publication and I’m hoping they’ll be around to publish 100 more.
Liz Robinson, Love Reading18 March 2020
Quirky, provocative, and fabulous, these short stories highlight everyday normality and yet firmly shake the roots of your thoughts. Hannah Vincent is a novelist and playwright, I first came across her writing in 2014 when I read Alarm Girl, which I can still clearly remember (bearing in mind just how many books I read, it shows you how powerful her writing is). Although these short stories might leave you with more questions than answers they are actually perfectly formed. Sweary, occasionally shouty, definitely challenging, the mundane is examined, and experienced in a completely different way. She-Clown and Other Stories is a really interesting and decidedly different collection of 16 stories that I can wholeheartedly recommend.