A collection of short stories is a tricky thing. The reader needs to get a sense of the writer’s unique voice and residual personality and style but without the stories running into sameness. In The White Road and other stories Tania Hershman accomplishes this masterfully. The collection is inspired by articles from science magazines but Tania, a former science journalist, creates her own utterly original and often beautifully surreal interpretations of the science prompt. From the striking title story to the magically unusual Rainstiffiness, each story has something unexpected and weirdly wonderful.
One of Hershman’s many fortes is her characterization. There are a range of diverse and memorable characters who linger in the imagination long after the book is read. Two of my favourites were the title characters in Evie and the Arfids and The Incredible Exploding Victor.
For me, as both reader and writer, flash fiction done well has – more than other types of fiction – the greatest potential for joy. To tell a story that is complete and which moves in a few words is a great skill on the part of the writer and for the reader is enthralling. In this collection, some of whose pieces are very short indeed, Tania Hershman demonstrates that skill to a high degree. Each story has its own internal rightness but the collection as a whole has a wonderful breadth and variety. Every story feels like a gift, like spun sugar or the amazing confectionary creations of ‘Self-Raising’ with its extraordinary climax, Hershman similarly makes fabulous things out of ideas and words, always asking ‘what if?’. As a reader I read in open-mouthed awe and joy, as a writer I writhed with envy. This is a must read collection.