Wednesday 8 March 2017

Recommendation: The Little Gift by Stephen Volk

I recently had the opportunity to read Stephen Volk's new novella, The Little Gift, and what a treat that proved to be. It's a cleverly structured and quietly devasting piece of work, a story with implications that linger long in the mind. It begins with a scene of routine, comfortable domesticity into which death intrudes: a long married couple are woken by their cat dismembering a bird in the kitchen. Cleaning away this 'gift' their pet has bought them causes the narrator to reflect on his past, on his marriage, and how things could have been very different...

The Little Gift is a book about which it's hard to say too much about the plot without spoiling things. Indeed, much of the actual plot takes place off-stage; Volk's narrator is a man at the periphery of a truly barbaric event, affected by its ripples but who neither directly caused it or experienced it. So non-central is he that certain key plot points are revealed while he watches the TV news. Of course, only the best writers could make this technique work, and Volk pulls it off with quiet aplomb. Very subtly, this is also a piece of metafiction - a story about stories, about how we tell stories in our own heads. About how we make every story about us, even when we are merely bit-parts.

Some books, you finish reading them and you're done; but the events of The Little Gift stick around in your head, nag at your thoughts, reveal new interpretations as you shower, go shopping or drive to work. It's another remarkable work from one of the best writers we have. You can (and should) pre-order it from PS Publishing here.

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