Author: Michael Stewart
Genre: Short Stories, Collection, Fiction
Publisher: Valley Press
Publication Date: 25th February 2016
Summery : ‘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 marshmallow 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.
It’s not often that I pick up a short story collection and read through the whole thing in a few days, however that happened with Mr Jolly, Michael Stewart’s first short story collection! I was given a copy of this very weird and wonderful collection for review (as Michael is in fact my lecturer at university) and I could not be more pleased and grateful to have been given the opportunity to read these amazing stories.
Mr Jolly is a short story collection offering a compelling insight in to the human condition. Alien abductions, lost children, monkey take overs and some kind of weird marshmallow fetishes await you in this book, I can guarantee you will never read anything of the sort.
This is one of those books that I can’t really think of a bad word to say about it. I found the premise of each story to be wonderfully different but have the same tone, similar characters, what felt like intertwining lives. Each story seemed to fit absolutely perfectly, even the stories that I was not completely sold on I would have been lost without reading this book.
There were four stories that really stood out to me while reading, You Are Going Back, The Butterfly on the Ceiling, The Man in the White Coat and The Black Man and The White Man. These four stories nothing short of captivated me. I’ve never been a huge fan of short stories, I’ve found many to be confusing and a little pointless. However these four stood out to mean something, to have something a little deeper that the reader can interpret as their own. And most of all they were just down right clever.
Whereas once i reached the final few pages of The Black Man and The White Man and I could see where it was going to end, it didn’t stop my stomach turning on the final page. That’s the general sense that each one of these fantastically crafted stories gives you, and that’s how a story should be told.
This book left a lot to be thought about when you’d put it down. It always compelled you to read the next story along but also your mind wanted to rest and process what it just read, imagine the lives of the well detailed characters and thought about the repercussions of their tales. Mr Jolly is not short of quotes that truly make you think about the human existence. Comparing the sun to the being of God and every breath we take as another step towards death not life made me think about how humans work, how we all coexist without question.
If you read one short story collection in the next year, or even in the rest of your life I’d recommend it to be this one. Not once has a short story collection pulled me in like Mr Jolly. It makes me not only want to reread the stories I absolutely adored, but reread the ones that I was less fond of, just to find the reason as to why I was not so fond, and change that opinion.