Tales of work, love and accidents. The day after the Bologna bombing of 1980, two foreigners travel towards Florence and wander into deep, deep trouble; in a London department store an academic is mistaken for a shop assistant and acts impulsively; two young people on a day-trip decide to visit a Soho sex-show; in a hospital in the Welsh valleys, a woman sits with her mother-in-law in the last nights of life – all this and more.
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What people have said about this book:
‘Some are dark and disturbing tales of lives viewed from under the mad end of a microscope, others are more of a glimpse of lives gone sideways.’ Alexei Sayle, comedian, author of Thatcher Stole My Trousers
‘Ordinary people are peculiar too, the poet Louis MacNeice reminds us, and this collection is filled with just such magical peculiarness found under the surfaces of the ordinary and the everyday. Grut does not judge but loves her characters for their oddities and differences, introducing them with a deft tenderness. These delicious, dark, funny and affecting stories – reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor – remind us that life does not come with simple solutions and that often it is in the terrifying messiness that we are the most alive.’ Tania Hershman, author of Some of Us Glow More Than Others
‘Here comes a bold collection of compelling stories from a prize-winning author. Her locations and landscapes range across work and domestic settings, friendships and marriages erupt in quarrels that are resolved in startling denouements. Vicky Grut casts a sharp eye over the linguistic clichés of office management speak, and her shifting tone varies from playful, witty, and tender; a love story that is affirmed in a tacky London sex club, to a deeply moving tale of loss and shock in the Welsh valleys. Her readers are in for a treat – and a rollercoaster ride of emotions, thrills and surprises.’ Patricia Duncker, author of Hallucinating Foucault and Professor Emeritus, Dept. of English, American Studies and Creative Writing, University of Manchester
Hermione Flavia on Craven Wild, ‘Grut has a beautiful writing style. With simple, well chosen words, she conveys so much, never giving too much away. She is never flowery and often enigmatic.’; ‘thought provoking, clever and surprising.’ […] ‘I highly recommend this book, even if you think you don’t normally enjoy anthologies or short stories.’
Judy Darley on SkylightRain: ‘Vicky Grut reveals her knack for summoning up characters so real they’ll follow you around your house, loitering in your kitchen as you make a cup of coffee until you almost feel you should offer them one too.’ […] ‘ comedic, lyrical, or a shining blend of the two.’ […] ‘For me the most powerful piece was the non-fiction essay Into the Valley – a beautifully nuanced and tender portrait of Grace, a woman shuffling towards the final moments of her life. “The truth is that none of us knows what’s ahead. (…) We don’t know how to read what we see in front of us. We’ve never been here before. We have no maps. We are badly lost.” And yet, in the sweetness of her writing, the evident affection and humanity, Grut also reminds us that love is the vital antidote to that dread – the comfort that sustains us, no matter what.’
Ashley Bullen-Cutting in Litro Magazine: ‘Grut populates her collection with people so close to us, so easy to read, it is as if they were the neighbours we’d spent a decade or so apologising to about the noise. Live Show, Drinks Included is not a mirror but rather a window above a kitchen sink where you just might catch a sun-distorted reflection of someone you know. At 173 pages, I just hope her next offering is a little thicker.’
Emma Lee on her blog: ‘There is humour amidst the darkness and glimpses of hope within the despair of some characters’ reactions. Vicky Grut’s stories are taut, astute stories that draw readers into their recognisable situations and shock with a sudden but credible tilt in perspective.’
Mr. R A Simmonds ***** on Amazon. This collection of short stories is fantastic. In just a few pages you find yourself immersed in each different reality that is richly and poetically described. The characters and situations are beautifully put together with emotions, memories and intellect reflecting struggles that connect us deeply and presented with compassion and humour. I was sorry to finish this book and would love to read more….
Sg1000. 5* Amazon Great book. Opened my eyes to the power of short stories Before I stumbled across this on Amazon I was dismissive of short stories, but Vicky Grut’s collection have forced me to reconsider. They’re dark, intelligent and insightful. Satisfying, bite-size gems. Okay, so each one leaves me wanting more, but in a good way, like a wonderful dream that lingers in the mind long after you wake.
As someone running alongside other rats in the race, I find her observations of contemporary working life to be eerily spot on. Her characters are convincing and vivid, which can’t be easy to achieve in this format. On a practical note, which shouldn’t be a consideration I know, I liked that each story fitted neatly into my commute on the tube.
Overall, really enjoyed it. Would read more from this author and definitely recommend. (Edit: it says in the description that I bought the paperback. I actually read the kindle version.)
Tara27: 5* on Amazon. A collection of rare beauty, insight and empathy. Many of Vicky Grut’s characters find themselves in a no-man’s-land that opens up in the midst of their otherwise ordinary lives. Certain characters are reaching for something that seems beyond their grasp, while others are attempting to outwit Fate or to attain a kind of significance in a society intent on demeaning them. One of the most moving stories, Into the Valley, reaches into the universality of death and our determined struggle against it, while in Stranger a lost soul who has spent his day attempting to meet various men who weren’t there meets “expressions of concentrated blankness” on the top deck of a London bus.
A personal favourite in this very strong collection is An Unplanned Event, a wonderful biopic of a story, rich in humour and pathos. Eric has been doing the garden of Mrs M, a former head teacher, ever since “the Croydon business” left him with “a head injury and no job” three years before. The story is grounded in its impeccable evocation of Eric’s work— surreptitious chopping back of invasive favourites, ‘no-go’ zones, gardening as warfare — and in the lovingly-sketched cast. But this is Eric’s story, and his forlorn history leeches out in flashes of detail: foster care, a children’s home, a stint in the army, intense loneliness and the conflation of violent and affectionate physical contact in his relationship with Stu. And then, the moment when the story turns — “a low hum, like a Flymo skimming across some faraway lawn” — followed by a transcendent passage in which “his eyes turned inwards” and the story reaches its conclusion in “a great ocean swell of happiness”. Wonderful writing, and as glorious an ending as I’ve read in a long time.
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Live Show, Drink Included: Collected Short Stories published by Holland Park Press on the 5th of October 2018