Ten Stories About Smoking

Stuart Evers

First Sentence:  Linda liked the way her brother’s driveway felt beneath her feet.

If ever I read a book purely because of the design and the blurb, this is the one. Packaged in a box to look like a real packet of cigarettes (click the picture to see what the actual book looks like), and with Wells Tower saying it is a “remarkable collection” on the cover, there was no way I could possibly resist this one. Did it deliver? In a word: Yes. It may not quite have the jaw-droppingly good sentences of Tower’s stories, but this is a very fine collection nonetheless. Each story is either based around, or has some reference to smoking and, as someone who much prefers novels to short stories I found this to be a great collection to dip in and out of. The story which was picked for the ‘first sentence last sentence’ treatment is Things Seem So Far Away Here and it tells the story of Linda, who goes to visit her brother, his wife, and Poppy, Linda’s niece. Linda is lost in her life, childless and living in a bed sit with no career to speak of, her sense of desolation is palpable, particularly in the final few pages. Really, any of these stories could have been picked as each one is a gem, but I just felt that this one lingered in my mind a little bit longer than the other ones did. (And it also has the best title, with Sometimes Nothing, Sometimes Everything coming in a very close second.) This is a great collection, I look forward to the novel…

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Last Sentence:     “Please, Poppy, please don’t come in.”

Last Sentence explained:   Not long after arriving at her brother’s place, the place where things seem so far away, Linda decides she wants to stay on as a nanny/housekeeper. She fleetingly believes she has finally found her purpose in life but this illusion is soon shattered. She has knitted a jumper with horses on it for Poppy and near the end of the story she takes it out of her bag to look at it before handing it over. Herself fresh from a cleansing bath she finds the jumper to be hideous; stinking of stale smoke, the horses not looking like horses at all, the sleeves of unequal length, and crooked stitching all over. She is filled with shame and at that precise moment Poppy knocks, inviting herself in. End of story…

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