Willans has an eye for entertaining details. In ‘The Cost of Advertising,’ Eliot starts the day with ‘a Marlboro Light and a biscuit Boost’ and the Jackson Pollock themed room in an advertising agency is, ‘as you would expect, splattered.’ In ‘Five Reasons for Leaving,’ Sanna leaves a list on Oliver’s table when she leaves. Her number one reason is, ‘You hate my ducks.’
The men in this collection battle for women’s hearts with chocolate and chairs, business cards and coconut biscuits. In ‘Shoot Yourself Dead’ Henry approaches conception like a project with an Egg Day Excel spreadsheet, while the young man in ‘The Wrong Bus Girl’ mistakenly thinks he has given fate a helping hand.
Many of these stories are sad, but they aren’t sentimental or maudlin. ‘Buy Ma Biscuits Or Kiss Ma Fish’ is a narrative spiked by doubt and self-loathing, but the ending is ultimately optimistic, and in the whimsical ‘The Grounding of Tiffany Hope,’ a woman’s ability to float tugs at her ‘like a kite on a string.’
Vanessa Gebbie describes Willans’ stories as ‘sharp, original and observant, with a generous helping of humour.’ I have to agree. I really enjoyed this collection.