Bernardine Evaristo (author of Mr Loverman, The Emperor’s Babe, and others) reviews Leone Ross’s Come Let Us Sing Anyway (2017), a collection of short stories that “seduce and shock.” [See our previous post Reading and Discussion on Writing True Sex.] Leone Ross—a professor, journalist, editor, and novelist known for her books Orange Laughter and All the Blood Is Red—was born in England in a Jamaican and Scottish family and was raised in Jamaica, where she lived until she graduated from the University of the West Indies. Here are excerpts from Evaristo’s review in The Guardian:
Leone Ross’s first short-story collection demonstrates her imaginative power and great psychological depth. The protagonists are predominantly female and Caribbean; abuse, sex, loneliness, betrayal and abandonment are recurrent themes. The collection opens with “Love Silk Food”, about an older woman married to a philanderer. She calls his mistresses “Excitement Girls”: “Wet things with their oiled spines, sweating lips, damp laps.” Deeply hurt, she spends hours sitting alone in busy shopping centres or aimlessly riding the London underground. When she gets chatting to a friendly man on a train, she misreads the signals and ends up painfully humiliated. As with her two novels, Orange Laughter and the Orange prize-nominated All the Blood Is Red, Ross writes here with searing empathy and compassion. Her women are rounded, wounded, and we cannot help but feel for them.
She also shows how people act out the patterns of their pasts. [. . .]
Several heroines appear to hold it together but are going through hell. The ultra-organised career woman in “Velvet Man” is courted by a stranger. When he visits her flat, it’s a filthy mess, the exterior manifestation of her interior chaos. “Swaying in her shame. Her mouth cracks open. ‘I’m so lonely,’ she says.” He cleans up her flat, no strings attached. Soothed by his kindness, work done, when he leaves she’s alone again – but there’s a twist to come. Several of these stories play with fantasy, sometimes through magic realism. In “The Mullerian Eminence”, disembodied hymens slide out of women and are left about a city, each one unique: “A golden cobweb”, “thin silk”, “glimmering wrought iron”. A man discovers them and gains access to their tales of abuse. In this remarkable fiction, Ross uses the power of metaphor and symbolism to explore the grief of women who suffer in silence. [. . .]
[. . .] These stories capture the complexity of women who have both strong passions and huge problems – the most fertile ingredients for exciting fiction.
See the author’s page at http://www.leoneross.com/about-leone