What to do when someone I know writes a book? Well read it I suppose! It’s not that I doubted that my friend Sue Katz could write: I know she’s been published on all manner of subjects from Sarah Palin to lesbian activism. (Anti the former, at least in government, and pro the latter.) I follow her blog. But this is a collection of writings on the love lives of older people – mostly women. Not my usual fayre.
On top of this I am not at all a fan of the short story. Short stories are by their nature full of short cuts. They employ a shorthand and even the most artfully crafted ones leave me feeling short changed. Just as I’m getting comfortable with the characters and the scene BAM! A climax and it’s all over. Reading a collection of them usually leaves me feeling somewhat punch-drunk.
Despite all of these reservations I found myself enjoying these tales. The characterisations, whilst necessarily short, are keenly observed. Being too sure of who ought to be leading and who ought to be following turns the dance of love in unexpected directions on several occasions. The Lillian of the title may just side-step a potential romance being bulldozed by the needs of supposedly grown-up family. Anna Lynne finds happiness not in the husband she chooses, but in the one who chooses, and uses, her. Catherine dances to her own tune because it suits her better than that heard by rest of the world; which is fine as long as you like to dance alone.
Woven throughout are the realities of life for many older people in Western society. The isolation from families who do not value them or think of them as people, dealing with failing health, the horror of dementia and yet the common need to be loved. And that is what comes across consistently in these stories: that at any age it is the giving and receiving of love in some form which shapes our character, our interactions and ultimately, our lives.
Lillian’s Last Affair: and other stories by Sue Katz is available from amazon in print and Kindle editions in both the USA and UK. I recommend it.