Travelling Left of Centre and Other Stories
January 1, 2015 — 22:58

Author: Dorothy Johnston  Category: Anthologies short stories  Comments: 5

Nancy Christie is the founder of Celebrate Short Fiction Day – a day, (the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere), for sharing short stories and enjoying them. I was so taken with the idea of short fiction day that I read Nancy Christies’s collection, Travelling Left of Centre and Other Stories.


TLOC cover RGB for web


The stories in Nancy Christie’s collection are vivid and compelling. The protagonist often finds her or himself in a trap – an impossible relationship, where the only way out is through violence to another, or oneself. In other stories, an event from childhood rears up to ambush the main character. Sometimes these characters are unable to distinguish between the fantasies they have created – for comfort, as an emotional shield – and the world of everyday reality to which they are compelled to return.

In the title story, a mother remarks to her pregnant daughter that, ‘on the highway of life’ she was ‘always travelling left of centre’ – a dreamer who kept dreaming, but never quite achieved her modest hopes, and meanwhile made herself an easy prey. It’s a description that fits most of Christie’s protagonists.

The stand-out stories for me were ‘The Shop on the Square’ where a young man walks into danger out of the hot Mexican sun, seeking only a cool place to lie down; The Sugar Bowl’ where the central image – beautiful, fragile and mysterious – says a great deal about the girl who owns it; and ‘Misconnections’, where the failure of machines is linked to emotional failure that can’t be put right.

In ‘The Storyteller’, a kind woman, who is not allowed to go on telling stories to sick children, does her best to let them down gently. In ‘Anything Can Happen’ a woman’s careful routines crack wide open. Christie’s stories chart the emotional chasms that open up under deceptive everyday surfaces, and pay tribute to the damaged human beings who must cope with them. A memorable collection.

  • I am so pleased that you enjoyed my work! Thanks so much for your wonderful review!

    January 3, 2015 — 13:29
  • My pleasure, Nancy. I do think Celebrate Short Fiction Day is a great idea. I hope that next time we can make it an international event!

    January 4, 2015 — 1:37
  • It’s a great skill to use the everyday in such a way that “the chasms” as you say beneath it open up to us. Perhaps the short story is the best form for this?

    January 5, 2015 — 4:46
  • Thanks for your comment, Joan. I’m reading William Trevor’s Selected Stories at the moment, and ‘underlying rifts’ is something he does very well indeed! I don’t know about ‘best form’ or whether there are specific ‘short story’ ways of doing this – it’s a good point to discuss.

    January 5, 2015 — 21:30
  • Sounds like another lovely collection of short stories Dorothy. Love that travelling left of centre motif.

    I have only read one William Trevor short story – plan to read more one day. He comes highly recommended.

    February 7, 2015 — 11:08
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