Monday, 24 July 2017

'The Last Checkout' by Wendy Robertson

The first story in Cold Iron is an interesting variation on what is often (rather derisively, and snobbishly) termed 'women's fiction'. Esme is a young widow who is coming to terms with the fact that the death of her unimaginative, controlling husband Maurice was not a bad thing. She gradually abandons the rigid routines he imposed upon her and starts to spread her wings a little.

One of the many things the ghastly Maurice disapproved of was Esme's friendship with a Big Issue seller - a Muslim refugee whose face has a 'closed Madonna look'. Esme's bereavement allows her to reconnect with this young woman in a peculiar way which involves an embarrassing incident in a supermarket. The theme is one of liberation, an imperfect freedom achieved despite life's injustices, great or small. The ghostly aspect is well-handled, and I admit that - despite being an old hand - it took me a few beats to realise just what was going on.

So, a good start to the anthology with this assured, humane tale. More pithy observations from yours truly soon!

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