Don’t you just love it when you discover a new author (well, new to you), who’s been sitting innocently on your bookshelf for a year or more, and then realise that they’ve written an absolutely fantastic story? After finishing The House Where It Happened (review here), it was back to the bookcase for me, and having finished one historical tale, I decided to stay in the past and go back even further – to the time of the plague.
The book? Company of Liars by Karen Maitland – a brilliant story which follows a little group of people who are thrown together as they attempt to escape from the pestilence in England during the 14th century. Along the way, we learn a little more about each of the party – their stories, their hopes, fears… and their secrets. Let’s just say, it’s a fairly lengthy book and I couldn’t put it down, despite my efforts at trying to make it last. It lasted but a day-and-a-half.
What struck me about this novel though, was that each chapter was like a little short story in itself. I’ve been reading quite a few short stories recently in between work and so on, and in Company of Liars, there’s a mini adventure in every chapter – a new dimension is clearly added to the tale each time. It’s a style of writing which definitely moves the narrative along at a swift pace, yet you never seem rushed. It’s like having a box-set of your favourite TV show – you just have to watch one more episode…
With novel-writing, it’s assumed that there’s room for the writer to ramble – that you don’t have to be as concise and structured as is necessary with the short story. You have room to breathe. Yes, I think this is true (and I for one like a good ramble!), but in this case, there is precision in the storytelling which leads us firmly on to the next step of the story with every page. It’s a narrative on a mission, and a talent which I would certainly love to exhibit in my own writing.
Anyway, as someone trying to perfect (!) their short story-telling, I loved this book and would definitely recommend a read. I for one, have been inspired.