Friday, March 13, 2009

Introducing Cynthia Flood's The English Stories

Cynthia Flood's The English Stories is a quiet marvel of a book, set to be released May 1st. A series of linked fictions detailing the story of Amanda Ellis, a young Canadian girl who goes with her parents to England "for a year that stretched into two," and her life at St. Mildred's school, it is a collection which should help to cement Biblioasis's reputation as one of the pre-eminent presses for the short story in Canada -- not that there are many out there vying for such a distinction. Unlike many linked short story collections -- Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women comes to mind -- Flood's suite is not limited to first person narration, but rather offers a range of perspectives, including those of teachers at St. Mildred's, guests at the Green House, a hotel the Ellis family stays at through out their journey, among others. The feel of this collection is much more novelistic than many, as Flood captures a fully realized and inter-connected world. Like Munro's Girls and Women, this as well is a coming of age tale; but its range is also quite a bit more broad than this. The English Stories offers a subtle portrayal of an England cut adrift, unsure of itself as its Empire collapses into the less grand Commonwealth, and of the ensuing tensions which become obvious in the everyday interactions between the English and their colonial brethren. First and foremost this is evinced through language, the subtle -- and occasionally not-so-subtle -- slighting of colonials, and the different ways identities are shaped and communities differentiated by everyday rituals and commonplaces.

John Metcalf, who edited this collection, has said that he think The English Stories ranks as among the Top Ten short fiction collections published in Canada, ever. Regardless, it is a magnificent book, and one that I hope reaches its fair share of readers.

We'll be having Cynthia in to guest-blog in the coming weeks about the origins of this collection. Also working to set up an Ontario tour, likely in June, so stay tuned.

1 comment:

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