Today’s book review of a short story collection is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey.
Synopsis: Whether approaching thirty, hitting forty or heading for ninety, birthdays can be fraught affairs. Birthdays are a source of inspiration, desperation and clever deception in this entertaining short story collection from best-selling novelist Jane Wenham-Jones. With laughter, tears, cake and champagne – these five birthday tales will leave you longing to blow out some candles of your own…
Jane Wenham-Jones is a well-known author and journalist who regularly appears on radio and TV. She is a columnist for Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special and her local paper the Isle of Thanet Gazette as well as being the agony aunt for Writing Magazine. She has published four novels: Raising The Roof, Perfect Alibis, One Glass Is Never Enough and, most recently, Prime Time as well as two non-fiction books – Wannabe a Writer? and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? She lives with her family in Broadstairs, Kent, where two of her novels are set. Her latest book – 100 Ways to Fight the Flab – was published in 2014. For more info see www.janewenham-jones.com and http://www.wannabeawriter.co.uk . Jane also blogs at http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com and has recently made a TV pilot for aspiring authors which can be watched on www.wannabeawritertvshow.com.
There are five stories in this collection (all previously published, in Woman’s Realm, Woman’s Weekly or Take a Break):
- Happy Birthday
- Unlocking the Magic
- When the Party’s Over
- Behind Closed Doors
- No Fuss
‘Happy Birthday’ is a tale of a newly thirty-year-old singleton surrounded by spliced couples and hating every second so puts on a brave face (haven’t we all done that?). In comes a blast from the past and the story thereafter isn’t quite what the reader expects and having an ending including ‘He’s not really my type at all’ was really apt for me as I met someone recently who I felt was very different, too different, but he’s proving me wrong. 🙂
‘Unlocking the Magic’ is a story of a woman whose friend Caroline gives her a self-help book which inspires her to put her domesticities on hold to have fun and pay attention to the world surrounding her. While she’s out her life takes an unexpected turn… for the better. This ending is one that has appeared in women’s fiction as a ‘no no’ (and I’ve used it in one of my stories) but it works for me because I hadn’t expected it.
I’d read ‘When the Party’s Over’ before, a story of strained relationships, lack of communication and naughty boys. I remembered the ending but that didn’t matter because I was looking forward to reading the piece again.
The aptly-named story ‘Behind Closed Doors’ starts with the main character’s anticipation of bad news that her husband Alan has for her but turns out not to be what she’d expected (it’s funny reading what she had) and then the story turns into a farce as the ‘problem’ is resolved and again another ending I really hadn’t expected, which is how they should be.
The final story in the collection is ‘No Fuss’ features an older protagonist, soon-to-be-ninety Enid who wants no fuss for her ‘big day’ but as it soon becomes clear that what she says and what she means are two different things entirely and ‘no fuss’ escalates to a lot of fuss.
Although these stories are sweet, they’re not sickly and as with most things Jane Wenham-Jones, highly entertaining.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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