Last Fling by Sue Gee

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Last Fling by Sue Gee

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Wonderful collection of delicately written, if sometimes upsetting, short stories.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: May 2011
Publisher: Salt Publishing
ISBN: 978-1907773068

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Sue Gee is well known for her novels, but this is her first collection of short stories. Short story collections are not for everyone. I've always enjoyed them since they fit easily into a busy life, leaving you feeling as if you've lived through a whole story in just a short space of time. It's easier to find the time for a quick story sometimes than to sit down with a four hundred page novel!

This is a very good collection, although I did find it unsettling and upsetting in places. The stories deal with various subjects such as regret, loneliness, love and death. I found the title story, Last Fling, terribly sad as it deals with a woman who is terminally ill with cancer. There are touches of humour, for she has placed a lonely hearts ad, looking for a final fling before she dies, but alongside of that is the sadness that the one love of her life never loved her in return and that now it is too late.

Gee is very skillful at creating good characters. Her stories feel like closely observed portraits, moments captured in time. Her descriptive passages are very good, but really it's the characters that made the biggest impression on me. I love short stories where the people come to life in just a few sentences, and you feel that you know everything about them thanks to the lightest of touches by the author. The stories are wide-ranging, set in busy cities at times or deep, deep in the British countryside at others.

I particularly liked one story about a young girl on holiday with her parents at the beach. The parents are concerned almost entirely with themselves and so she is left to entertain herself, meeting another young boy on the beach who she befriends. Again, there are moments of humour as the boy encourages her to eat raw mussels, and yet again this is undercut by the sadness of the girl's situation as she then gets food poisoning, much to her mother's disgust, and we can see her desperate loneliness and unhappy home situation with great clarity.

I think it's best to be prepared for feeling upset after some of these stories, but there are some uplifting moments too. I had just recently attended a funeral when I read them so some of the stories dealing with illness and death made me feel a little raw, but if you're prepared for a mix of emotions then it is an excellent collection, and definitely recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of Trio by Sue Gee.

Further reading suggestion: If you're looking for more short stories you might like to try Love Me Tender by Jane Feaver and Travelling Light by Tove Jansson.

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